Meet Goose: The Digital Copilot Of The Future

When you think of a co-pilot, you likely think of a second human being in the right seat of the cockpit of a commercial jet. German company AeroSys aims to change this with Goose, the digital co-pilot of the future. Simple Flying caught up with the company’s CEO, Mirko Hahn, at last month’s Dubai Airshow to learn more.

Aerosys, Goose, Digital Copilot
AeroSys is building a digital co-pilot that could eventually replace the human co-pilot. Photo: Getty Images

A dream started in California

Like many great ideas, Goose started in California back in 2019. Hahn, a licensed pilot in the US and Europe, explained that Goose began as a homemade piece of hardware designed to help inform him about potential airspace infringements.

The original piece of kit had a GPS receiver and gave an audio alert when he was approaching airspace where clearance was required before entering. Hahn then added voice assistance to the device and a couple of checklists he was regularly using.

Aerosys, Goose, Digital Copilot
What started as a dream in California now has a 15-person team behind it. Photo: AeroSys

“Hey, these guys were wondering what the German is doing with a soldering iron in their aircraft”

Hahn’s flight instructor introduced him to other pilots flying the aircraft after one particular flight, and his side project took off when they asked to give it ago. Hahn then decided to pursue the project as a serious business idea, but it took some time for his voice to be heard.

Initially, AeroSys was turned down for funding as a German research project, as nobody believed that he could actually make a digital copilot. Rather than giving up on his dreams, Hahn went to the DLR (German Aerospace Center), who was instantly onboard with the idea. With the backing of a significant player in the aviation industry, the dream finally took off.

A digital co-pilot

AeroSys is now working to make Goose a certified product to assist single-pilot operations. The company aims to have the first version of hardware certified for private pilot VFR operations by August 2022. But how will it work?

Goose currently exists as a box with an on-off switch and four audio ports. The pilot will plug their headset into Goose, with more cables to connect Goose to the cockpit’s relevant parts. This way, Goose can hear both the pilot and air traffic control.

Aerosys, Goose, Digital Copilot
Goose is currently a standalone box that plugs into the aircraft’s audio system. Photo: AeroSys

Goose is always listening and is ready to help at a moment’s notice. Hahn explained that pilots could adapt the audible aid to suit how they fly. It could simply sound the alarm when it believes a hazardous situation exists, or it could assist with much more. The box has GPS capabilities, and it can read ADS-B data (what powers flight tracking websites), so it knows where in the world it is.

By being aware of its position and listening to air traffic controllers, the software can assist the co-pilot. In the United States, pilots must establish contact with ATC before entering class D airspace.

Suppose Goose notices the aircraft is heading towards the airspace and hasn’t recognized that two-way communication has been established. In that case, it will prompt the pilot to help aid situational awareness and avoid an airspace violation. Similarly, Goose will notice that the controller has given a new frequency to change to. If the pilot doesn’t read this back, it will offer a gentle reminder.

Aerosys, Goose, Digital Copilot
Goose is always aware of which airspace the pilot is in and approaching. Photo: FAA/Public Domain

Additionally, as the digital co-pilot learns about the pilot it assists, it will adjust to understand their accent and how they typically speak. This means that if a pilot starts to get stressed or fatigued, the assistant can pick this up and alert the pilot.

Yes, that Goose

One question that Hahn was quick to answer was surrounding the origin of the digital co-pilot’s name. For any Top Gun fans wondering, yes, the little yellow box is named after Maverick’s Radar Intercept Officer in the 1986 film.

Unfortunately, Goose won’t start playing Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins on request, though it does have several easter eggs built-in. Hahn was keen not to spoil these all at once, though he did reveal one. If a pilot says, “Hey Goose, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby,” then Goose will respond with “Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.”

Aerosys, Goose, Digital Copilot
Yes… Goose is named after Maverick’s wingman in Top Gun. Photo: Getty Images

The future applications of Goose

As mentioned, Goose will start as a standalone box aimed at private pilots to assist with situational awareness, though AeroSys is already looking at the hardware’s future applications. By the start of 2024, Goose should be certified as an aid for commercial, IFR, and complex flight. The following year, AeroSys hopes to integrate the system into business jets.

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AeroSys is also working to create a dock for Goose to be plugged straight into the aircraft and access information directly from the plane. Discussions are also underway with several OEMs about shipping new aircraft to use the dock.

Will Goose help to facilitate single-pilot commercial jet operations?

Airbus is known to be exploring the possibility of single-pilot operations. At the Dubai Airshow revealed that the A350 freighter was a good candidate for being the first to get such operations. When asked if he can see a place for Goose assisting such operations, Hahn remarked,

“I’m certain, yes. I’m very certain that Goose can do that and I’m sure that Goose is going to do that… The way to replace the pilot monitoring is a very long shot… Just to have a second pilot monitoring [in a multi-crew cockpit] can be a massive benefit for everyone.”

Airbus, Boeing, Dubai Airshow
Hahn is confident that Goose would have a place in single-pilot commercial cockpits. Photo: Airbus

AeroSys is now working to form more partnerships throughout the aviation industry and secure further funding for its goals. Hahn mentioned that the interest from the industry at the Dubai Airshow had been incredibly strong.

Do you think the co-pilot of the future could be digital? Let us know what you think and why in the comments.

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