automatic pilot

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automatic pilot:

see air navigationair navigation,
science and technology of determining the position of an aircraft with respect to the surface of the earth and accurately maintaining a desired course (see navigation).
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Automatic Pilot


an apparatus for the automatic control of aircraft (such as an airplane, helicopter, flying bomb, or guided missile). The idea and a diagram for an automatic pilot were proposed by K. E. Tsiolkovskii in 1898.

The first airplane controlled by an automatic pilot was demonstrated by the Sperry Company (USA) in a flight at the Paris World’s Fair of 1914. A domestic automatic pilot with a pneumatic actuating system (AVP-1) was developed in 1932. The first automatic pilot was designed to stabilize only the angular moments of an airplane (movements relative to the center of mass), thus making it possible to maintain a specified flying attitude for an airplane without the pilot’s attention. Improvements have made it possible to create an automated system that controls an aircraft not only with respect to its center of mass but also the center of mass itself. This allows all the flight modes of an aircraft to be automated from takeoff to landing. The aircraft’s control surfaces and engines are automatically controlled. Flights can be handled for different types of pilotless craft (such as rockets, guided missiles, and artificial satellites).

An automatic pilot for an airplane consists of a number of automatons that are alike in operating principle (concerning course, pitch, bank, speed, height, and so on) and that operate together to control and stabilize the flight. The sensing unit of each automaton measures a single assigned parameter of the flight position (for example, the height or the course), known as the control parameter, and produces a signal proportional to the current value of the parameter. The setting mechanism for the flight positions produces signals, each of which corresponds to the required value of a specific control parameter. These signals are compared in a computer. Their difference (mismatch), following amplification, is fed to a servo unit of the automatic pilot which deflects the corresponding control surface of the airplane or the control unit by means of a motor. When this position achieves the required value, the mismatch signal disappears, the servo unit stops moving, and an equilibrium position is obtained. Stability can be achieved in an automatic aircraft control system both by using a derivative of the controlled parameters and by negative feedback of appropriate types. In addition to automatons, there are various control and regulating systems in an automatic pilot. Power in the form of electric energy, or air and oil under pressure, obtained from the airplane’s engine, is required to operate an automatic pilot.


Bodner, V. A. Teoriia avtomaticheskogo upravleniia poletom. Moscow, 1964.


automatic pilot

[¦ȯd·ə¦mad·ik ′pī·lət]
Also known as autopilot.
Equipment which automatically stabilizes the attitude of an aircraft about its pitch, roll, and yaw axes and keeps it on a predetermined heading.
Equipment for automatically steering ships.

safety shutoff device

In a gas burner, a device that will stop the gas supply if the gas flame is extinguished.

automatic pilot

automatic pilotclick for a larger image
A simple 3-axis autopilot.
That part of an automatic flight control system that provides attitude stabilization, in all three planes, with respect to internal references. It may also permit leveling out at the desired altitude, or rolling out onto the desired heading. However, some autopilot systems have restricted capability in that they bring back aircraft into a wings-level attitude but do not provide any pitch stabilization. In the case of helicopters, autopilot may also provide autohovering capability.

automatic pilot

a device that automatically maintains an aircraft on a preset course
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