Joby Aviation has acquired the autonomy division of Xwing Inc., a developor of autonomous technology for aviation.

Founded in 2016, Xwing has been flying autonomous aircraft since 2020, using the Superpilot software it has developed in-house. Superpilot enables safe, uncrewed operations, supervised from the ground, and is the world’s first fully autonomous gate-to-gate flight technology, according to the company. With 250 fully autonomous flights and more than 500 auto-landings completed to date, Xwing became the first company to receive an official project designation for the certification of a large unmanned aerial system (UAS) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 2023 and the first to receive an Air Force Military Flight Release in 2024.

The acquisition complements the company’s 2021 acquisition of Inras GmbH, a company developing lightweight, high-performance radar sensor technology. Xwing’s approach, and expertise in perception technology, system integration and certification, is expected to benefit both near-term piloted operations for Joby as well as fully autonomous operations in the future. The company also expects the technology to play an important role in accelerating the execution of existing contract deliverables with the U.S. Department of Defense and expanding the potential for future contracts.

JoeBen Bevirt, Founder and CEO, said: “The aircraft we are certifying will have a fully-qualified pilot on board, but we recognize that a future generation of autonomous aircraft will play an important part in unlocking our vision of making clean and affordable aerial mobility as accessible as possible.

A diverse set of engineers, researchers and technologists from Xwing will now be integrated into Joby where they will focus on the increased automation and autonomy roadmap for the Joby aircraft as well as expanding opportunities to partner with the Department of Defense on technology development.

Xwing’s autonomous flights were completed using a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan aircraft, allowing the team to focus on areas such as vision system processing, detect and avoid algorithms, mission management including trajectory planning and real-time updates, decision making, ground control stations, remote operations and the integration of AI and machine learning algorithms.

In early 2024, the aircraft participated in the Air Force’s Agile Flag 24-1 Joint Force exercise, during which it completed daily flights, covering around 2,800 miles and landing at eight public and military airports, demonstrating the ability to integrate autonomous aircraft into the national airspace system.

"Autonomous systems are increasingly prolific in the private sector, and bring potentially game changing advantages to the Air Force as well," said Col. Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialization officer for the Department of the Air Force. "We created Autonomy Prime to keep up with this shift, and to stay engaged as a partner while this technology evolves, so that we can adapt and evolve along with the private sector, maintaining our competitive advantage."

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