Talking about relative velocities in class recently and the complications they pose for flying in a cross wind has made me more curious about how the autopilot systems in aircraft adjust to different winds. According to my favorite site for research- Wikipedia- autopilot systems rely on something called inertial guidance. This system uses motion sensors called accelerometers and rotation sensors called gyroscopes to calculate position, orientation, and velocity without relying on external frames of reference. My guess is that this would eliminate the need to deal with relative velocities! Another cool tidbit of information is that errors accumulated in this system are corrected using some type of crazy six dimensional filter called a "Kalman filter." These six dimensions are roll, pitch, yaw, altitude, latitude, and longitude. (Don't ask me to explain this, because it sounds really complicated.) So anyways, next time you're in the air remember to thank the autopilot system!
P.S. Does anyone know how to change your avatar on this site? As much as I enjoy the creepy little ginger girl I have now, I don't know where she came from or how she got there and I think it's time for a change.