Flying cars - or personal aircraft anyway - have moved a step nearer, as ongoing trials using robot aeroplanes and next-gen air traffic equipment in America are said to offer the option of "reduced crews" on commercial cargo flights. US aerospace firm GE Aviation has been participating in joint trials with the Federal Aviation …
Do you trust computers?
Not a good idea - the time you really want two pilots is when something goes wrong, such as your FMC doing strange things (QANTAS A330 over the Pacific?) where you definitely want to get the electronics as much out of the loop as possible. If you're on a long cargo flight, on your own, who's going to keep you awake and alert? At least if there's two in the cockpit you have some degree of redundancy if one pilot is incapacitated. Indeed, there are some accidents where it was considered that with a flight engineer in the cockpit as well, the accident would never have happened.
Imagine the fun to be had by successfully hacking into the data link, your very own remote control aircraft, full-size.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/fail_32.png So are ATC incapable of making mistakes, then? I would not want to trust my life to someone with no flying skills, no threat of death if they make a mistake, nor to a worn-out, low-paid single pilot trying to monitor if there is one! How comfortable would you feel flying through Chinese/Philippine/Indonesian/Korean/Middle-Eastern/African/S-American airspace, with their piss-poor controllers?
Air Traffickers (particularly in the US) have always resented the pay levels of pilots (despite the fact a lot of pilots are now paid less!) and want to replace them. I really hope this experiment gets nowhere, because a lot of people will lose their lives to it.
Of course accuracy was greater, Mr GE-Goebbels, the system works more quickly. But accuracy in current aviation is not a problem, safety is, so stop introducing irrelevances.
One more word for consideration by this muppet blanket-stackers: WEATHER!
Where's the monkey butler angle?
My worry isn't so much how well software can fly an aircraft under normal circumstances (=amazingly well), but those rare conditions when having a pair of eyes, ears, and an alert brain to respond to the unexpected can be the difference between a near-miss and a collision??!
This reminds me of the crewless ship concept briefly pushed in the '90's. The ship would still have a crew on board to maintain the ship etc but the navigation would be controlled by GPS.
Only when the vessels approached the busiest shipping lanes/ port would the more highly skilled staff come aboard, to handle the most complicated manouvres and docking, unloading, loading etc.
A quick google throws up the below from 1995.
More terror planes
Just image someone manages to hack the control signals, they can then happily fly the plane wherever they want, remotely with no risk to themselves, no need to train umpteen pilots like 9/11.
Even if there are crew on board they would only need incapacitating in some way to prevent them taking control.
And what about...
Malware hijacking the FMS and hijacking/crashing planes? Not very much fun.
ROI for Terorism increases massively
Considering Al Quaeda trained people to become pilots to pull off 9/11, image how much cheaper it is to train people to become air traffic controllers, and then, when they go "active" a pilot can only crash one plane (well perhaps two if they find a plane to crash into)
Imagine an rogue ATC orchistrating multiple mid air collisions.
Stuff not considered...
What about stuff like microbursts, geese in the engines, total hydraulic failures, etc? Don't forget the Sioux City flight 232 pilots that were able to fly using differential throttle when the hydraulics totally died, and of course Mr. Sullenberger's man-on-the-spot decisionmaking that put a plane down safely in the Hudson river. I don't think a remote operator would have had enough situational awareness to make the proper decisions. They would have probably tried for an airport and failed.
Pilots are mostly supercargo until the feces hits the compressor blades, which is when they prove the worth (or not) of the many hours of training and flying experience.
NASA has also discovered that RPV operators can suffer spatial disorientation & vertigo, even when they're firmly on the ground. (http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/Do_Drones_Get_Vertigo_Too.html)
You might say "they won't do this with passenger jets" and I say "I can't wait until one of these automated freight planes falls on somebody's house."
It can fly from A-B but...
Can it land a plane in a river with no loss of life after having both engines stuffed with birds?
The day will come when there will only be a man and a dog on the flight deck: the man to feed the dog, and the dog to bite the man should he attempt to touch the controls.
How would an FMS have dealt with the deadstick landing into the Hudson river last year? Yet another reason to return to the horse and buggy.
Standards? Encryption? Security?
The *implications* is ATC will be able to *directly* command any compliant aircraft but these seems to be a demo from a specific types base station.
While I imaging having 2 pilots on board a commercial aircraft is one of the last *great* cost barriers to airline bean counters I's say the background standards to support this are still a *long* way off.
It would indeed be enabling tech for a flying car. Provided you did not actually want to *fly* it yourself.
neat but I won't be putting a down payement on anything with wings just yet.
Never trust an Air Traffic Controller
Something my flight instructor told me way back around my first flying lesson.
I would need double digits to count the number of time I've been instructed by a controller to do something that would have resulted in an accident or crash. I've been told to fly into terrain (read mountainside), cross a runway in the path of a landing jet, etc. by the same people we are talking about putting in remote control of aircraft.
Don't get me wrong, most controllers are very competent professionals that fill a vital role in the airways. But, as a commenter mentioned above, they just don't have awareness you have sitting in the aircraft with your life and the life of your passengers on the line.
Roll on SkyNET...
@ ALL Hudson river etc
Yes this system could easily cope with landing a plane on a river and without forgetting to use the ditching switch to.
Bring on speech recog and synth!
Easy way to get around the legal problems of needing to respond to ATC instructions - a voice recog on one end and a voice synth on the other! Hey presto, a plane that responds to voice commands!
And for the people who don't trust electronics - every plane since the A320 has been fully fly-by-wire - the computer takes the pilots input and translates it into control surface movement. If you don't trust the computer, you have nothing.
History and progress
About 1947 flying was the future so parliament considered an aviation act. They debated this point, then legislated that all passenger flights must have a human pilot.
We are closer to ground control than we think because the computer that flies the modern airliner has a transponder for Air Traffic Control, that is radio data as an i/o . The autopilot is built into the control computer which guides the a/c through gps waypoints, total control would simply enable the ground to insert co-ordinates. What can happen depends on the code. Should we be pleased or frightened ?
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