back to article US Army plans robot planes operated by non-pilots

Military pilots are up in arms* over US Army plans for substantial, powerful drone combat aircraft to be operated by mere mortals without wings on their chests. The flying death machines in question are the US Army's new version of the well-known US Air Force Predator. The army's "Sky Warrior" version is a somewhat enlarged …

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Anonymous Coward

I seem to remember something...

...about the cavalry getting all upset when tanks turned up. And I'm sure the pikemen weren't too happy either.

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Anonymous Coward

>setting aside pilots who carry passengers

Of course there could be a huge advantage in having passenger carrying aircraft where the pilot isn't being shot at while attempting a tricky manouevre. Medical evacuation from forward positions springs to mind.

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Boffin

Makes me laugh

US airforce officers complaining about a potential blue on blue situation from a UAV. In case the guy from the airforce didn't realise, his pilots already cause huge numbers of friendly fire incidents and have done for many decades.

I would trust a UAV in the hands of a seasoned gamer (no TKing noob I might add) than in control of a "yeehaw, lets blow stuff up" US pilot any day.

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ties in with

The Army using gamers instead of "real" soldiers.

I love flying planes into enemy bases and dropping bombs, sign me up! Long as my PC doesn't crash, this could be just the break I've been waiting for.

"Accidentally destroyed America".. shame..

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ian
Bronze badge
Coat

"Friendly Fire" automated?

So is this killbot programmed to seek out and destroy British and other allies?

Our poor brae' lads and lassies, faced with crap kit, crap leaders, and crap allies! Its no wonder that MoD have moved to passive resistance tactics. We'll surrender in droves and drive our enemies to the wall with whinging about the lack of beer, chips and good whisky. It worked against the Iranians.

coat/taxi/door

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General Atomics...

...just has to be the coolest name for a company ever.

I want a General Atomics T-shirt!

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Plus Ca Change

Anonymous Coward has it basically right. It's like watching U.S. Army cavalrymen in 1920, clinging to their sabers and determined to keep tanks from operating in massed shock formations.

I guess it's easy to recognize -- and scorn -- well-known examples of blindness to military novelty in history books, but not so easy to recognize that one is destined to serve as such an example in a future history.

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Stop

Just wait..

..until ones flies into a tall building!

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Alien

General Atomics?

Weren't they they people who made Kimbal Kinnison's inertialess and faster than light (after all Einsteins Theory of Relativity was ONLY a "theory") Galactic Patrol flitter?

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Stop

Late thought

Surely all the enemy has to do is find out how to jam the control signals? Just an extension of radar counter-measures...

Another nice thing about pilots is that they are good at controlling damaged planes and not driving them into unsuitable targets, like your own side.

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Happy

@Mike Richards

"The Running Man" ????

(The book rather than the movie, of course!)

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Predator B crash...not just pilot error

The "pilot error" in the Predator B crash should obviously be, at least partly,

attributed to the stupid, stupid, stupid design decision to use the control lever

intended for controlling fuel to the engine in one mode also control the camera in the other mode.

This is the kind of thing that the NTSB has often been good at catching. But I'm

shocked that it wasn't caught by anyone in doubtless long chain of approvals to purchase that hunk of crap. I wonder what other silly design flaws exist in these

craft. And I wonder what sort of tragedy will be required to counteract the

huge "investment inertia" that calls for continued justification for their

poorly-considered use.

If they can't even get the controls laid out properly, what hope do we have to

escape from one going crazy.

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The Last Starfighter

Anyone remember this film? Kid plays computer game unaware that the game is actually testing his fighter pilot skill - he does so well that he is called up to fight in an interstellar war.

Is there a Call of Doodie for flying robot planes yet?

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You want idiots on that stick?

From when I was in the Army: Operator: "The light goes out every time I open the door." Me: "OK, next to the door handle is a little switch labeled BLACKOUT. Move it from the ON position to the OFF position." Operator: "The transmitter doesn't work." Me: "The red 'INTERCONNECT' light means that the waveguide isn't clipped in. In this case the transmitter is trying to save your life. Clip in the waveguide properly and try again."

And on and on.

You want non-pilots operating those drones? Ummm, thanks, I'll pass on that. Once in a while a person in the Army is a bright spark, but usually they are a bunch of dim bulbs.

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Dead Vulture

100 time worse

I believe thats the current accident rate for Predator drones which are in the hands of trained people.

So thats 100 times more accidents hour for hour than conventional aircraft.

But of course what would the accident rate for fixed wing aircraft against balloons in 1910 been like??

Have a look here if your interested in building your own UAV http://diydrones.ning.com/

G

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Warrants vs. Zoomie Wing Wonders

I spent 23 years in the US Army, and in 1969 I was on the list to attend Warrant Officer Flight Training. I never went, the war in 'Nam wound down early enough that I wasn't needed for that; however, in all my years in the Army, I never saw even *one* commissioned USAF pilot flying a medevac chopper, or a in the front seat of a Cobra gunship in close ground-support role. That was all done by Warrant Officers, and I'll trust those men with my life again any time.

I'm sure the Winged Wonders are perfectly fine people in their own way, but they are of little or no use to the man on the ground who's trying to hold a piece of real estate. The USAF didn't like having to operate the A-10 warthog, which (from a Mech Infantry point of view) was the single most valuable aircraft they had, and they finally managed to shut down the program. I can't imagine them supporting any program that prevents their pilots from playing "Top Gun" with real lives and real multi-million-dollar equipment.

Bottom line: Bombers based on aircraft carriers successfully flew missions against battleships, in spite of the Olde Guard's objections. Drones *will* be flying close air support in the near future. Learn to live with it, or start looking for a comfortable spot on the sidelines.

Afterthought for James Pickett: "Surely all the enemy has to do is find out how to jam the control signals?" Surely the drones will be programmed to go into fail-safe mode upon prolonged loss of signal. Automated IFF using lasers is very difficult to jam, as well, so a damaged drone can easily be pre-programmed to avoid friendlies during a controlled crash. Pilot or no pilot, there's *nothing* that can be done in an uncontrolled crash. Maybe that's why they're called "pile-its."

Good article. Well-written, no obvious bias either way.

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Black Helicopters

what goes around, comes around

lets go back afew years....

in WWII the RAF has "flying officers" and "flight Sargents" - both flew planes, both shot largely shot down foriegn nationals (e.g Germans and Japanese) - the only difference? Flight officers went to posh schools before joining the service and got paid more and had better facilities thant the Flight Sargents! - again a case of jobs and money for "the old boys network" - as for teh RN dunno but i they were pretty miffed about having to give up their harriers for a "combined service" aka RAF pilots! - strange how during the war the RAF werent interested in protecting boats and left it to the NAVY to sort out (its not just about numbers, the nation would have been able to ramp up RAF squadrons as easuilt as Fleet Air Arm Sqaudrons, the RAF just didnt like boats.... untill they justified them having new JSF aircraft)

in WWII there was no US Airforce, the flying was done by the Navy and the US *ARMY* airforce! the USAF only came into effect after the WWII.

I dont knwo as much about the USAAF but imagine it was not just "officers" who flew planes be it fighte ror bombers - havent got a clue about the USN.

The USMC have the best approach where there officer fly Harriers etc and are used as "flying artillery" and close support, they also have a disticnt advantage of being a) owned by the USMC and b) controlled by USMC so have tight operational integretiy... it owuld be interesting to see the bulue on blue stats for the USAAF compared to USMC?

The interesting point was that Tanks or MLRS have the same,simiar or greater fire power than a UAV and they are typically controlled by the grunts on the ground..... taking that one step fruther anti-tank missles etc can and are probably usable by any train footslogger!

as and for Mr Picketts comment, shouldnt that be

"until one flies *unitentionally* into a tall building"

the book

Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs by Lewis Page and Harold Evans

illustrates very effectivly the interservice rivalries in particulary within the british armed forces, but also comparisons and assessments withother forces and needless to say the US forces figure prominantley.

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UAV are flown by...

.. computers.

You, Mr-Wing/No-Wing-On-Chest pilot on the ground, is instructing the on board computer, and the computer (checking the flight envelope, energy state, mission profile, safety limits and what not else), executes that as safely as possible.

The joystick for flying the UAV is also going to be phased out (if not already). The operator will simply instruct the UAV computer (via touch screen displays, MFDs, etc) and the UAV will execute.

This is not flying. This is not aviation. Hell, this is not even a friggen decent computer/flight sim game!

I fail to understand what the real AF pilots are concerned about.. except about job protection angle.

But there has been a joke doing the round of commercial aviation for some years now about the automation of the front office. In the future, there will be a dog and a pilot in the cockpit. The pilot is there to monitor the automated computer systems flying the plane. The dog is there to bite the pilot should he be tempted to touch anything.

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Silver badge

'This will set back robot planes for decades'

On the contrary, multiplying the amount of operators means multiplying the amount of drones, which in turn means higher build rates, more improvements, innovation and cost reduction.

And, in turn, we get better drones for less cost, while operators get easier-to-control interfaces to get used to.

Looks like a boom is coming for drone builders.

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A10 cancelled ?

To the chap who said the A10 was cancelled, not sure about that. Last i heard it was not only still in service, but being upgraded to the A10C, for onward service into the next decade. The first A10C rolled out this year.

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A10 and other comments

The A-10 was supposed to be phased out by the Air Force just before the first Iraq war (didn't suit THEIR mission). But they hung on to them because the Army wanted to take them over (unsubstantiated source). After the first Iraq war (particularly on the highway of death), it became obvious of the need, so the AIr Force kept it. As a ground pounder (combat engineer) there was a big difference watching an F-4 make two passes (two bombs each) and leave, and have an A-10 hang around the battlefield, turning tight circles for what seemed like forever. We called it a flying tank.

Don't look now but the Army is already flying UAV's down at the company level. As for the Air Force, the story I heard is that the AF was not interested in UAV's until the CIA started loading them up with weapons and bombs and having great success (from an obviously biased source).

As for helicoter pilots, the Army uses commissioned officers, and warrants ... officially. Unofficially, there are a lot of crew chiefs (NCOs)who have the skills and experience (at least during Viet Nam).

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driver chappies

The UK Army Air Corps has always been mostly SNCO and WO pilots. Furthermore it was often said that their best pilots were those from infantry and armoured corps because they had good tactical sense.

The whole purpose of UAVs is that they are more expendable than crewed aircraft. Takeoff and landing can be automated (target aircraft have been for years). Most civil airliners spend more time on auto pilot than off. The UAV operator's job is to handle the air vehicle to ensure the image analyst can do their job as directed by the mission commander who in turn has their orders. If it's armed then the attack decision will be made by the mission commander.

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