Garmin's Autoland system has been awarded the prestigious 2020 Robert J Collier Trophy it was announced over night.
The Collier Trophy is awarded each year by the US National Aeronautics Association (NAA) to a company, product or person who has made the most significant contribution to aeronautics or astronautics in the previous year.
Autoland, which is a system that automatically lands the aircraft in situations where the pilot becomes incapacitated, beat a strong field of finalists that included Bell's V-280 Valor tilt-rotor, SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Dragon 2 spacecraft and Yates Silent Arrow cargo delivery drone.
Autoland is currently certified on Piper's M600 as the HALO safety system, on Daher's TBM 940 as HomeSafe and Cirrus' SF50 Vision jet as Safe Return.
"The Garmin Autoland system marks a significant improvement in civil aviation," NAA Chairman Jim Albaugh said. "Its ability to take over an airplane with a disabled pilot and land it safely will save many lives in the future.
"It's a remarkable technical achievement and clearly merits the Collier Trophy."
"Autoland began as a simple exploration to develop automation technology for general aviation," Cliff Pemble, president and CEO of Garmin explained. "This exploration resulted in the first automated system that can safely fly and and land an aircraft in an emergency without human intervention.
"It is a tremendous honour for Autoland to be recognised as one of the greatest achievements in aviation history."
Past winners of the Collier Trophy include Glenn Curtiss, Orville Wright, Howard Hughes, Chuck Yeager, the crew of Apollo 11, Burt Rutan (twice) and the 787 Dreamliner, putting Autoland in very prestigious company.