Merlin Wins FAA Contract for Revolutionary Air Cargo Network Piloted by Autonomous Systems

Boston-based Merlin, a leader in autonomous flight technology for fixed-wing aircraft, has been awarded a $1 million contract by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop a highly automated flight control system. The system will be demonstrated in partnership with the FAA-designated University of Alaska Fairbanks UAS Test Site and Everts Air Cargo, and will be the first autonomy system integrated into the National Airspace System (NAS).

The Merlin Pilot, the integrated hardware and software solution developed by Merlin, will be used in flight trials that will run along three test routes serving five destinations. All test routes will originate from the FAA-designated UAS Alaska test site in Q2 2023.

Dr. Cathy Cahill, Director of the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI) at the UAF Geophysical Institute, said, “Alaska’s terrain and inclement weather can challenge the most experienced pilots. And yet remote communities rely on air cargo deliveries for vital supplies such as milk, mail, and medicine. Working with Merlin on these flight trials benefits our residents and provides data with each flight that will create not only a safer airspace in Alaska but technology that is applicable worldwide.”

Merlin aims to use crewed aircraft augmented with the Merlin Pilot to serve rural cargo destinations, enabling better access to supplies and reducing the significant safety risk to today’s pilots. During the initial testing phase, safety pilots will monitor the experimental flight control system. All routes will originate from Fairbanks and separately fly to Fort Yukon, Galena, Prudhoe Bay, Huslia and Tanana.

Matthew George, co-founder and CEO of Merlin, said, “The Merlin Pilot is being developed to make the skies safer and more accessible. These initial flight trials are vital to maturing our in-flight capabilities and it’s rewarding that this work will also serve a material need in the communities of Alaska.”

Founded in 2018 and headquartered in Boston, Merlin is building the definitive autonomy system for all things that fly.

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