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How Autopilot Works

        Science | Modern

Modern Autopilot Systems
The newest autopilots can execute an entire flight plan.
The newest autopilots can execute an entire flight plan.
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Many modern autopilots can receive data from a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver installed on the aircraft. A GPS receiver can determine a plane's position in space by calculating its distance from three or more satellites in the GPS network. Armed with such positioning information, an autopilot can do more than keep a plane straight and level -- it can execute a flight plan.

Most commercial jets have had such capabilities for a while, but even ­smaller planes are incorporating sophisticated autopilot systems. New Cessna 182s and 206s are leaving the factory with the Garmin G1000 integrated cockpit, which includes a digital electronic autopilot combined with a flight director. The Garmin G1000 delivers essentially all the capabilities and modes of a jet avionics system, bringing true automatic flight control to a new generation of general aviation planes.

Wiley Post could have only dreamed of such technology back in 1933.

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