We are performing research into Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) that have a significant payload capability. The next step will be to get them certified so that they can fly in the civilian airways system/general airspace. After that, the logical next step is to use them as civialian cargo aircraft (timescales - 20 to 30 years). Techologically speaking, the jump to passenger-carrying aircraft without a pilot is a small one.
But the major hurdle is passenger confidence.
We have discussed this before, and the major problem for most people seems to be the software running the Flight Management System. Therefore, if we assume that, within the next 40-50 years (approximate timescales for these programmes), the software can be made far more reliable than a human pilot, would you consider flying without a pilot?
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Saintsman From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2002, 2065 posts, RR: 2 Reply 2, posted (10 years 3 months 2 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 1403 times:
In normal operations I imagine that the computer could control the whole flight. The problem comes when something unusual happens. There are only so many scenarios that can be fed into the computer's memory. What will happen when something that has not previously occured materialises? (can you feed in all the likely results of a bird strike for example). I realise that in the next 50 years computers will be able to think for themselves but I don't think that they will be good enough to compensate for a human brain in the same situation.
99.99% of flights may well be safely operated by an unmanned aircraft but that 0.01% is bound to happen and as you know aircraft crashes tend not to be very forgiving.
TechRep From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 4, posted (10 years 3 months 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 1340 times:
Air travel is going to this direction but at the moment people are not ready for this. Technology must have natural progression and right now the flying public is not ready. This very question was also proposed to the public when the horseless carriage was invented. People were saying there is no way a car can take the place of what a living horse could provide.
The are many more examples where invention took the public by surprise and was rejected. We may well come to a point where the human being says "NO" to the tools he creates, however we are riding this technology renaissance and so far most technology being put out seems to be welcomed.
I can honestly say right now, I would not fly in an aircraft that is commanded by computer only. I do not believe that current technology can support such a structure and the results of failure seem so catastrophic. I would feel very comfortable with anything "pilotless" as long as its attached to a ground network, such as rail or highway.
Teva From France, joined Jan 2001, 1868 posts, RR: 17 Reply 5, posted (10 years 3 months 2 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 1326 times:
We already have unmanned metro (in airports such as STN, ORY or FRA, and in cities such as Toulouse or Lille)
And people are happy with it.
Why not the same for aircraft ?
Tchnology is there.
It could have prevented the mid air collision between a russian plane and a freighter over Germany last summer.
It could prevent hijacking too: the plane is controled from the ground. (and I think it could be a good way to sell the idea to travellers)
It would save a lot of money for the airlines : no more pilots to pay; less strikes too.
For safety reason, I will keep 1 engineer on board, in case of technical problem.
(and of course, the flt attendants)
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UN_B732 From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 4286 posts, RR: 5 Reply 6, posted (10 years 3 months 2 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 1320 times:
If there were one engineer on board (experienced pilot) to overlook the systems and if he had the capability to override the computer in the event of problems, I would fly on a pilotless plane.................. Only, if there is an experienced engineer, and if Ground Tower also had control over the plane.