Garmin has won the coveted 2020 Robert J. Collier Trophy, which recognises aeronautical and astronautical innovation, for its Autoland system.

Autoland is the world’s first certified autonomous system designed to activate during an emergency to safely fly and land an aircraft without human intervention. Part of the company’s Autonomi range of autonomous safety technologies, the system calculates a flight path to the most suitable airport, while avoiding terrain and adverse weather, initiates a stabilised approach to the runway and lands the aircraft – without pilot or passenger intervention.

Without pilot or passenger intervention

The system is designed to provide the pilot, passenger and air traffic control with confidence and security that the aircraft will autonomously aviate, navigate and communicate en route to a safe destination in the event of an emergency.

The awarding organisation – the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) – said that while rare, pilot incapacitation accidents, and others like them, are almost always fatal. Its president/CEO Greg Principato told Corporate Jet Investor the Garmin Autoland is “a real game changer”, which will make a major contribution to improving general aviation safety.

The technology was nominated for the award by NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, after an in-aircraft Autoland demonstration last year. Bolen wrote: “After personally pushing a button at 10,000 feet over Kansas and coming to a full stop on the centerline of Johnson County Executive Airport with no human input, I realised I had just experienced one of the greatest safety technologies in the history of aviation.”

‘One of the greatest safety technologies’

So far, just three aircraft are certified to use the Garmin Autoland. These are the: Piper M600 SLS, Daher TBM 940 and Cirrus Vision Jet (pictured top).

Meawhile, Principato said: “The history of the Collier Trophy is the history of aviation – in America at least. There were some great nominees this year and the award has long recognised safety achievements.” (See shortlisted organisations below).

Previous winners of the trophy, first awarded in 1911, include Glenn Curtis, for his hydro-plane design, Orville Wright, William Lear, Boeing, Cessna Aircraft Company, Gulfstream, NASA and many others. Safety innovation has also featured prominently among the winners. Aviation pioneer Wright won the trophy in 1913 for his automatic stabiliser. More recently Cirrus Aircraft won the award in 2017 for the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System and in 2018, the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) team was recognised.


2020 Robert J. Collier Trophy finalists

  • -Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor long-range aircraft
  • -SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon 2 reusable space craft
  • -Boeing Confident Travel Initiative
  • -Reliable Robotics Remotely Operated Aircraft System (ROAS)
  • -US Air Force Green Propellant Infusion Mission Team
  • -Yates autonomous cargo drone Electrospace’s Silent Arrow.


Above: At the touch of a button, the Garmin Autoland system flies and lands

the aircraft without the need for any type of pilot or passenger intervention.

Below: The Robert J. Collier Trophy has celebrated innovation since 1911.