When landing at major airports, large commercial aircraft already use an automatic landing system, where the autopilot follows radio signals from special ground devices. However, this innovation has not yet reached small airports.
Within the framework of the federal program of the German government C2Land, the technical universities of Munich and Braunschweig are developing technology for automatic landing at such airports. It relies in part on the GPS system, but, unfortunately, the coordinates coming from it are not accurate and reliable enough to correctly orient the aircraft to the runway. As a result, if you rely on GPS alone, the pilot still has to take control upon landing.
To get around this limitation, it is proposed to equip aircraft, along with conventional light sources, also with an infrared camera. As it approaches the airport, the aircraft's on-board software analyzes the video information from the cameras, while determining the position of the aircraft relative to the runway. In combination with GPS data, this information is used by the autopilot for a safe landing.
At the end of May, the system had already passed field tests, allowing a modified Diamond DA42 light-engine aircraft to land at a small airfield.