Autopilot system is an integral part of flight management system. It is utilized to control a vehicle without constant monitoring by a human operator. This system do not replaces a human operator instead assist them in operating a vehicle. They are widely used in aviations, missiles, spacecrafts and ships among others. An autopilot system consists of three components including programmer or mode selector, computer and actuator. A programmer or mode selector allows the pilot to program the autopilot system to achieve intended flight profile and helps in interacting with avionic system such as GPS.
Computer receives the information from programmer and transfers it to the actuator. Actuators are motors or servos which physically move the aircraft’s control surface. Autopilot systems are designed to complete two primary purposes including enhancing pilot’s flight control capability and reducing the cockpit’s workload by putting the aircraft in automatic flight mode.
An autopilot system performs several functions such as course tracking and coupling, dual mode intercept, course deviation warning, roll steering, altitude hold, control wheel steering, glide slope coupling, vertical speed and heading mode among others. This system performs the task of maintaining the assigned altitude and heading, tracking vehicle off road signal and intercepting the course. Some of the autopilot systems use computer software to control the airplane. This software tracks the current position of the aircraft and controls the flight management system accordingly. Autopilot system offers low consumption of fuel compared to airplane operated by human pilot.
Control surface affects an aircrafts attitude including elevators, rudder and ailerons. An autopilot is capable of controlling all these control surface. Different levels of controls in aircraft include single-axis, two-axis and three-axis control. A single-axis is able to manage one control system usually ailerons whereas two-axis autopilot manages both ailerons and elevators. A three-axis autopilot is capable of managing all the three control system including rudder, ailerons and elevators.
Autopilot system helps to provide a safe travel with more energy efficient compared to human pilot. High fuel efficiency and technological advancement is supporting the market growth of autopilot systems. Additionally, need for accuracy in navigation system for controlling and monitoring the vehicle path to avoid accidents is further fuelling the market growth. However, complexity in system integration with high operational and maintenance cost is affecting the market growth. Further, motor or servo failure is posing a challenge for the autopilot system market.
Autopilot system market is segmented on the basis of applications and types. These systems have widespread applications in the vehicles used in airways, sea and subsea. Autopilot systems are classified into unmanned aerial vehicles and aircrafts. Autopilot systems used in ships and subsea includes undermanned underwater vehicles and submarines. There are two basic types of autopilot system such as rate based and attitude based.
Some of the key players in the autopilot system market include Furuno Electric Co. Ltd., Cobham Plc, Garmin Ltd., Rockwell Collins Inc., TMQ International, BAE Systems plc, Raymarine Ltd., Trimble Navigation Ltd., Cloud Cap Technology, Honeywell International Inc., and Century Flight Systems Inc. among others.
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