Nowadays we are so familiar with traveling by plane and so used to trust autopilots that never really think about how all this flying magic works. Aircrafts are actually constantly guided by the airport with a radio signal that gets read and transformed into specific directions by special equipment on the plane called the Instrument Landing System (ILS). Such an approach is safe and reliable but only possible in larger airports.
Researchers from Technische Universität München have set a goal of turning automatic landing with the help of ILS into a truly autonomous one. They’ve successfully tested a system which combines computer vision and GPS to enable the plane land itself.
GPS here is used for general navigation, but allies that with infrared cameras and visible light to get the accurate positioning and detect the runway even in difficult weather conditions such as rain, fog or snow. Using this data, the plane calculates the glide path with the help of an on-board computer.