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FedEx packages may soon be delivered by self-flying planes

SAN FRANCISCO: Logistics giant FedEx is looking to use self-flying planes to transport packages to remote places, according to the CEO of the company.

FedEx is working with tech startup Reliable Robotics to test the use of an unmanned aircraft for cargo delivery, news site Supply Chain Dive said in a recent report.

“This initiative deals with smaller turboprop airplanes and in this case the single-engine C208, which we are looking at putting in very remote and uninhabited areas as part of our network,” FedEx CEO Fred Smith was quoted as saying.

Reliable Robotics said it successfully completed test flights of two remote-piloted passenger airplanes in the United States airspace last month.

In the first flight, the pilot pressed a button on a remote user interface and the unmanned four passenger Cessna 172 Skyhawk (C172) automatically taxied, took off, and landed, the company said.

Most recently, the company demonstrated fully automated remote landing of an even larger aircraft, the Cessna 208 Caravan (C208), capable of carrying 14 passengers.

According to the US Federal Aviation Administration documentation, FedEx is listed as the registered owner of the Cessna 208.

Launched by SpaceX and Tesla veterans, Reliable Robotics is working towards changing commercial aviation with its autonomous flight technology.

The company designed and built a proprietary autonomous platform that can be applied to any fixed-wing aircraft.

The platform includes avionics, software, mechanisms, a communications system, remote command interfaces, along with a backup system that has the capability to take over if needed.

Following the C172 programme, it was adapted for use on the larger C208. Reliable Robotics said it is now working with the Federal Aviation Administration on incrementally bringing this technology to market, having already demonstrated automated landing on the Cessna 208 Caravan.

European Union regulator to approve Boeing 737 MAX flights next week

PARIS: The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) plans to authorise the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again next week, 22 months after the plane was grounded following two fatal crashes.

“For us, the MAX will be able to fly again starting next week,” after publication of a directive clearing the jet, EASA director Patrick Ky said in a video conference.

“We have reached the point where our four main demands have been fulfilled,” Ky said during the conference, organised by the German association of aviation journalists.

The MAX was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes that together killed 346 people — the 2018 Lion Air disaster in Indonesia and an Ethiopian Airlines crash the following year.

Investigators said a main cause of both crashes was a faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Meant to keep the plane from stalling as it ascends, the automated system instead forced the nose of the plane downward.

The findings plunged Boeing into crisis, with more than 650 orders for the 737 MAX cancelled since last year.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered Boeing to revamp the jet and implement new pilot training protocols, before finally approving the plane for a return to service in November.

Ky had already indicated in October that EU approval was likely after Boeing promised a new sensor would be added to prevent the type of problems that caused the 737 crashes.