Developing Certifiable, Autonomous, Passenger Flight

August 28, 2023

At Wisk, we are making everyday flight a reality for everyone with our self-flying air taxi and ground system. This means that our aircraft flies itself by leveraging a technology suite that allows it to make reliable, deterministic responses to high-frequency, time-sensitive tasks.

To make this autonomous approach a reality, we’re using a multi-pronged approach, including simulations, surrogate aircraft, and integration labs.

High-Fidelity Simulations
Leveraging high-fidelity simulations of our entire ecosystem (the aircraft, ground systems, and human element) allows us to accelerate our development process, safely test real-world scenarios before ever putting an aircraft in the air, and ensure our concept of operations is feasible and scalable.

Surrogate Aircraft
Surrogate testing, or leveraging other, certified aircraft to test our autonomous capabilities and technology, allows us to accelerate development through quick test cycles using real data in an operational environment.

Here’s how the surrogate process works:

  • We begin with a helicopter to test potential hardware and software technologies in flight, evaluating and combining them to build up key autonomy capabilities.
  • We integrate these systems with multi-vehicle supervisor interfaces and algorithms on the ground to explore how the operator interacts.
  • We conduct many flights, simulating different operational situations, to collect robust data for analysis.

Next, we refine the technology to create a suite of hardware and software based on the experiences and data we collected previously. We expand our testing to evaluate the integration of air and ground systems on more representative routes and in more challenging scenarios. We also integrate other external elements like ATC and data providers. This process leads to a mature suite of hardware and software technology that is ready to be certified. The full technology suite is further verified on our surrogate aircraft.

At this point, everything that we expect to enable autonomy has been simulated and flown and is ready to be transferred to the air taxi airframe. We then transfer our suite of hardware and software to our air taxi for final system integration testing and type certification activities.

Once integrated, this is when we demonstrate the air taxi to our regulator partners. The end of this process will result in a certified aircraft and initial operational flights.

Integration Labs
State-of-the-art, human-machine Integration labs allow us to evaluate a key element in the system: human players. These labs allow us to understand human-factors in greater detail and evaluate workload limitations, training requirements, interface design, and, provide a real-world, dynamic example of future operations to key stakeholders, and more.

These three elements are fluid in their timing and often can run concurrently with each other.

We recognize that our self-flying first approach is unique. However, with our simulation, surrogate, and human integration strategy — combined with our broader aircraft development program — we are confident in our ability to make autonomous everyday flight a reality within the next several years.