BowflexBrennan
Topic Author
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Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 5:18 am

I recently saw a video on the internet that showed an airliner landing with no pilots, and computers were directing it. It overshot the runway, crashed into a forest and blew up. I am not sure if this was real or fake, but it got me thinking; do you think that there will be a time when computers do everything, and pilots will be "extinct"? I highly doubt it, and I (along with many others) would be very reluctant getting on a plane with no pilots, but is the idea of no pilots in he cockpit even feasible?
 
Fly2HMO
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 5:23 am

Quoting BowflexBrennan (Thread starter):
I recently saw a video on the internet that showed an airliner landing with no pilots, and computers were directing it. It overshot the runway, crashed into a forest and blew up.

Uhm, if you were talking about the Air France A320 crash, yes, it did have pilots. IIRC, both the pilots and the plane were to blame.

No passenger carrying airplane has been flown yet without humans at the controls, AFAIK.
 
contrails
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 5:25 am

I'm sure a pilotless airplane is possible, but who would want to fly on it? Certainly not me.
Flying Colors Forever!
 
legoguy
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 5:29 am

Quoting FLY2HMO (Reply 1):
if you were talking about the Air France A320 crash

Also I think 3 people died in that crash.

I can't imagine any airliner of the future flying without at least one pilot.
Can you say 'Beer Can' without sounding like a Jamaican saying 'Bacon'?
 
PIA777
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 6:08 am

I will stop flying once there are no Pilots on planes.

PIA777
GO CUBS!!
 
GAIsweetGAI
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 8:59 am

(All this is hypothetical and theoretical, so please don't flame me.)

Computers don't make mistakes.
Read Asimov's "The Evitable Conflict" (I think that's the one).
It's only the data that the computers are given that can be erroneous, and their programming can be incomplete. Human errors.
Provided that the data the computers are fed is correct, they will make no mistakes and react quicker than a human to any problem, so the only problem I can see for having computer-controlled planes in service is the pilot unions that will want to protect jobs.
"There is an art, or rather a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."
 
skysurfer
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:08 am

Quoting PIA777 (Reply 4):
I will stop flying once there are no Pilots on planes.

PIA777

I'm in 100% agreement with that....as much as computers can do for us and how 'fast' they are compared to us humans, i personally do not feel comfortable sitting in a plane with no guys/girls up front. If an aircraft receives significant damage thesedays the autopilot shuts off because it can't control things as it's programmed to...but that's exactly where a real pilots instincts and gut reaction kick in. Some people might be fine flying with a microchip at the controls, but when the sh!t hits the fan i want flesh and blood 'drivin' the machine.

Cheers
In the dark you can't see ugly, but you can feel fat
 
Charliejag1
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:17 am

The AF crash was at an airshow and all onboard perished, not just three people. The plane was full of children. The pilot could not get the aircraft out of the 'land' mode, and he only wanted to do a low pass. They stayed at an altitude of maybe 30 feet until it went into the forest, followed by a large explosion. Very sad indeed. As a pilot, I would fly a Boeing any day over a bus.
 
DeC
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:36 am

Stupid, meaningless junk around the internet (from whoever made the comments heard on the video, saying that ‘that was the first fully-automated flown airplane’ etc).

Here's what actually happened:


http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19880626-0&lang=en

CVR transcript:
http://aviation-safety.net/investiga...ion/cvr/transcripts/cvr_acf296.php
DEC
 
Charliejag1
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:44 am

I stand corrected, somehow only 3 people died. I am amazed but relieved. I am also surprised that the report did not mention the automation as a potential factor
 
ss278
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:46 am

The Airbus had numerous software "glitches" in the fly-by-wire system when it was first delivered. It took a few years to get them all resolved.

I remember hearing of a couple of incidents which happened to NWA with their first A320's. It seems that under the right conditions the computer refused to hand back the airplane to the pilots when commanded to do so. This would occur at the top of descent. Until they fixed the software the only way for the pilots to regain control was to shut the plane down and "reboot" it. Fortunately, since they were at cruise, they had the altitude and time to do it. These incidents were ocurring in the mid- '90's IIRC. Haven't heard of another one in years. I have a good friend who is a A320 captain and he loves flying the bird. I have no qualms about getting on one.

JetBlue has been having numerous software problems with their EMB-190's as well. AFAIK, they have mainly happened on the ground. Some of the pilots refer to the airplane as as the EMB-180; it leaves the gate, taxis out and has to do a "180'' to come back to the gate and reboot.

Completely "hearsay" (and I suppose that since the design has now been made public what follows is definitely incorrect) but I had heard that Boeing originally intended to design the 787 cockpit to accomodate one pilot and one dog. The pilots' job was to monitor the instruments, the dog's job was to bite the pilot if he even looked as if he was going to touch anything.
 
HikesWithEyes
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:53 am

I think that first you will see a move to a 1 pilot cockpit on airliners.
The pilot will basically monitor the systems, but the computer(s) will
be flying the jet.
After the safety of this kind of system has been demonstrated, then
the push to pilotless systems will be on.
As labor costs continue to plague airlines, and as technology continues
to advance, I think it is inevitable that this will happen.
Sure, there are lots of people who say that they would never fly in
an airplane without a human at the controls, but when Orville and Wilbur
first flew, I am sure there were many people who said "I'm not going up
in one of those", but look at the industry today.
First, benzene in my Perrier, and now this!
 
usnseallt82
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 10:55 am

Quoting BowflexBrennan (Thread starter):
Pilotless Airplanes

You won't see pilotless aircraft, at least civilian ones, for a long time. The technology is there, but society isn't ready to relinquish the controls over to a computer. It won't happen anytime soon.

The military is a different story.
Crye me a river
 
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falstaff
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 11:20 am

I have seen several remote operated locomotives at industrial sidings and small yards. Usually the operator is is eye shot, but when I don't see him I wonder. I see this on my way to a Friend's house near Flat Rock, MI. on the GTW. I always seem to get stopped by it. I have also been stopped by trains around the USS plant on Zug Island, in Detroit, that have a warning painted on the locomotive stating that the train is remote operated and there is no train crew. Those trains don't go far and go slow, but I don't like it. Plus you are putting a train crew out of job. We need all the jobs we can get here in Detroit!

GM tested a driverless highway in 1939 and again in 1994 or 95. It worked, but that was only on a test track and a small bit of road in California.

As far a pilotless planes, I have seen film, on the History Channel, of some drones from the late 40s that were made from B-17s. I wouldn't want to fly on a pilotless plane. I don't want to ride on a train with no engineer either. I know those trams like the Detroit People Mover (AKA mugger mover) and most airport trams (like those at DTW, MSP, ATL, DEN, etc) don't have on board operators, but those operate in a isolated situation and in a small area.

People like other people controlling situations. Even though people make mistakes, you just seem to feel better when you can have a real person in charge.
My mug slaketh over on Falstaff N503
 
Jonno
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 11:29 am

If there had been no forest, would the A320 perhaps had a better chance of a rough crash landing?
 
Charliejag1
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 11:45 am

If the pilot had decided to put it down on the runway, there would have been no accident. The plane would not allow the pilots to climb, that was the issue.
 
futurecaptain
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 11:56 am

Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 5):
Computers don't make mistakes.

Um, yes they do. Just ask Microsoft.

Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 5):
they will make no mistakes and react quicker than a human to any problem

Not to any problem. When the sh*t hits the fan and some unusual circumstances come around outside of the computers programming what will happen? Sometimes doing things "by the book" just isn't good enough.
And in the rare (but not unheard of today) event of computer failure, this is where a pilot earns his pay. A human doesn't need a computer to fly, a computer most definately needs a human.
AirSO. ASpaceO. ASOnline. ASO.com ASO. ASO. ASO. ASO. ASO.
 
XFSUgimpLB41X
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 1:04 pm

Multiple system failures... even things such as a decision to continue an approach with t-storms approaching or over the field.. or normal enroute wx deviations. Computers cannot and will not be able to do that stuff.

Much of the weather deviations we do are accomplished visually (around buildups that arent showing on radar but will bump the airplane pretty good). Computers cannot do this.
Chicks dig winglets.
 
Mir
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 2:06 pm

Quoting HikesWithEyes (Reply 11):
I think that first you will see a move to a 1 pilot cockpit on airliners.
The pilot will basically monitor the systems, but the computer(s) will
be flying the jet.

But then you have to take into account how the time spent monitoring the systems takes its toll on the pilot. I doubt someone could sit alone just watching systems for more than a few hours before they'd need relief. So then you have another pilot. And we're back where we started.

-Mir
7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
 
legoguy
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 4:08 pm

Quoting Jonno (Reply 14):
If there had been no forest, would the A320 perhaps had a better chance of a rough crash landing?

I believe that when the plane skimmed the top of the tree's, it was slowed gradually. It was a miracle that only three died. What happened to the black boxes? IIRC there was some concern made over the black boxes.
Can you say 'Beer Can' without sounding like a Jamaican saying 'Bacon'?
 
zvezda
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 4:56 pm

Quoting SkySurfer (Reply 6):
If an aircraft receives significant damage thesedays the autopilot shuts off because it can't control things as it's programmed to...but that's exactly where a real pilots instincts and gut reaction kick in.

That's why airliners will never be flown by computers that are programmed to fly. The newest generation of robots are not programmed to walk. They learn how to walk, just like a human does. They cope (after a short bit of struggling) to walk in new environments (e.g. on sand, inclines, etc.) Eventually, they will learn how to fly an airliner. Computers (probably in the form of humanoid robotic pilots) will cope with damage exactly the same way that humans do -- only faster and more precisely. Robotic pilots which learn to fly as they go would be able to cope with situations like UA232 at Souix City -- in exactly the same way that the human pilots did, but faster and with greater precision. Would such a robotic pilot have been able to land UA232 without loss of life? No one can say with certainty, but if I were onboard, I would rather have such a learn-as-you-go robotic pilot at the controls than a human pilot.

I expect that cockpits will stay as they are for decades and that, first with cargo aircraft and later with passenger aircraft, it will become normal to have a human captain and a robotic copilot. Before any robotic pilot gets a pilot's license, I think robotic taxi drivers will be ubiquitous, which is probably 10 to 20 years away. People will be comfortable with one human pilot and one robotic pilot in the cockpit. At some point cargo flights will operate with two robotic pilots and no humans onboard. It will probably take a pilots' strike to induce an airline to operate passenger flights without any human pilots. Once that happens, I don't think they'll ever be back. Would pilots be stupid enough to strike when the airline has a fleet of licensed, experienced humanoid robotic pilots that the passengers are used to? The history of unions say yes, at some point they would.

I think the idea of remote controlled aircraft is unlikely to ever become a reality. Control needs to remain onboard for a variety of reasons including reliability and security.
 
centrair
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 5:33 pm

Nasa did a test back in the 1980s using a remote controlled 720.

Quote:
In 1984 NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) teamed-up in a unique flight experiment called the Controlled Impact Demonstration (CID), to test the impact of a Boeing 720 aircraft using standard fuel
with an additive designed to suppress fire. The additive FM-9, a high molecular-weight long chain polymer, when blended with
Jet-A fuel had demonstrated the capability to inhibit ignition and flame propagation of the released fuel in simulated impact tests.



Quote:
The aircraft was remotely flown by NASA research pilot Fitzhugh (Fitz) Fulton from the NASA Dryden Remotely Controlled Vehicle Facility. Previously, the Boeing 720 had been flown on 14 practice flights with safety pilots onboard. During the 14 flights, there were 16 hours and 22 minutes of remotely piloted vehicle control, including 10 remotely piloted takeoffs,
69 remotely piloted vehicle controlled approaches, and 13 remotely piloted vehicle landings on abort runway.

The plane was evenutally crashed into the ground. (This is the inflight movie from Airplane)

CID/index.html" target=_blank>http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/gallery/movie/CID/index.html
(link seems not to want to post right so copy and past)
Yes...I am not a KIX fan. Let's Japanese Aviation!
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:28 pm

It would be tough convincing the Pax to fly on a Pilotless Aircraft though.
regds
MEL
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NAV20
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 12:38 am

Quoting HikesWithEyes (Reply 11):
As labor costs continue to plague airlines, and as technology continues to advance, I think it is inevitable that this will happen.

Just picking up on that point, even ignoring safety issues, i don't see how pilotless flight could stack up financially.

Just taking landing - probably the trickiest part of any flight - not all airliners have an 'autoland' capability - and even if they do, as I understand it, pilots are not allowed to use the systems except at airports that have the most complete and modern ILS systems. Normally the last phase of any landing is still done manually.

In any case, not all airports have ILS, and virtually none of them have ILS on all runways - and ATC often has to direct pilots to land on non-ILS runways because of the wind direction.

I am only guessing, but probably all takeoffs, 90% of landings, and around 50% of all approaches are still carried out manually.

So, leaving aside the cost of automating the aeroplanes themselves, 'pilotless flight' would entail the expenditure of untold billions on upgrading the ILS systems at virtually all airports, and installing 'state of the art' systems at the many airports that don't currently have ILS at all.

What's worse, it would be the taxpayers (the proprietors of most airports), not the airlines or the manufacturers, who would have to foot the huge bills. And poorer countries just couldn't afford it, they'd presumably have to do without air services?

I just can't see it happening. In face of the sort of costs involved in upgrading all those airports, a couple of pilots in every aeroplane look cheap at the price.
"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
 
Stealthz
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 12:57 am

Quoting Charliejag1 (Reply 15):
If the pilot had decided to put it down on the runway, there would have been no accident. The plane would not allow the pilots to climb, that was the issue.

BS, I flew many sectors in jump seat of A320 in the years after this incident, the major issue is the crew had a misplaced faith in the "system" and it's ability to keep them out of trouble. Basically they had been brainwashed by the "boffins' at Toulouse that the they knew better( I am an IT sytem specialist and the concept that a bunch of pale faced nerds with thick glasses and pocket protectors, living on a diet of Pizza and Pepsi can fly a plane better than a professional pilot scares the s&^t out of me)
Their consensus was.. take a firm hold of the 2 levers on the centre console.. jam them thru the "firewall".. the plane would have said.."OK you want to fly.. let's fly!!"
If your camera sends text messages, that could explain why your photos are rubbish!
 
zvezda
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 1:23 am

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 23):
So, leaving aside the cost of automating the aeroplanes themselves, 'pilotless flight' would entail the expenditure of untold billions on upgrading the ILS systems at virtually all airports, and installing 'state of the art' systems at the many airports that don't currently have ILS at all.

Not needed with robotic pilots. They will be able to learn to do anything a human pilot can do. Of course, that's decades away.

Quoting StealthZ (Reply 24):
Their consensus was.. take a firm hold of the 2 levers on the centre console.. jam them thru the "firewall".. the plane would have said.."OK you want to fly.. let's fly!!"

I'm a firm believer that fly-by-wire systems should, in response to unusual and extreme force on the controls, override all the flight envelope protections. It's better to bend a wing past the elastic limit than to CFIT. If the pilot wants to damage the airframe, there is probably a good reason for it. Having the plane protect itself against accidental or negligent damage is a good thing, but it should back off when the pilot pushes very, very hard.
 
aircanl1011
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 5:23 am

As they used to say

"All you need to fly a B747 is 1 pilot and a dog. The pilot is there to feed the dog and the dog is there to bite the pilot if he tries to touch the controls"

You will always need the human factor to at least monitor the computer.
CYMRU AM BYTH / WALES FOREVER
 
HikesWithEyes
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Joined: Sat Jan 24, 2004 10:54 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 6:01 am

Quoting AIRCANL1011 (Reply 26):
You will always need the human factor to at least monitor the computer.

Perhaps, but that doesn't have to be done from inside the aircraft.
Part of the transformation will probably mean that dispatchers on the
ground will pick up some of the piloting duties.
First, benzene in my Perrier, and now this!
 
memphis
Posts: 129
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 6:14 am

So with computers flying, what would their respnose/actions be in a situation such as United 232? I prefer individuals who are trained and spend a large part of their lives flying to be in charge of a situation such as this.
nocturnal
 
zvezda
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 6:32 am

Quoting Memphis (Reply 28):
So with computers flying, what would their respnose/actions be in a situation such as United 232?

See reply #20.
 
cobra27
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 7:13 am

There will never be planes with passengers only. Take trains or ships for example,
 
aircanl1011
Posts: 259
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 9:55 am

As long as passengers are unwilling to fly without pilots there will never be unmanned cockpits. This situation may be more of an issue of the passengers perception of safety. If the passengers do not feel safe they will not fly. What airline would ever take that chance.
CYMRU AM BYTH / WALES FOREVER
 
GAIsweetGAI
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 10:05 am

Quoting Futurecaptain (Reply 16):
Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 5):
Computers don't make mistakes.

Um, yes they do. Just ask Microsoft.

I would call those errors/problems, not mistakes.

Quoting Futurecaptain (Reply 16):
Not to any problem.

Actually, to any problem they are programmed to respond to. And that's using the "If... then..." type of programming.
If someone creates a computer capable of reacting to causes it was not programmed to recognize, and reacting creatively (this may have happened already, though... I'm not really up to date on computer science advances.), then they can react to any problem.

That being said,

Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 5):
All this is hypothetical and theoretical

My disclaimer.
"There is an art, or rather a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."
 
BOE773
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 11:40 am

I think that pilotless freighters will be the next giant leap for aviation.
After all, UAVs are pioneering the technology to make it happen someday.
 
skysurfer
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 11:45 am

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 20):
That's why airliners will never be flown by computers that are programmed to fly. The newest generation of robots are not programmed to walk. They learn how to walk, just like a human does. They cope (after a short bit of struggling) to walk in new environments (e.g. on sand, inclines, etc.) Eventually, they will learn how to fly an airliner.

Well i hope they learn to fly before they learn to walk, otherwise we'll have a few accidents and a few losses of life before our computers learn what to do, but that won't benefit the already dead pax. I understand what you're syaing, but i think it'll take MANY years of tests and unqualified successes before we see a computer take full control, and IF that happens, which airline is willing to risk that leap? That's the big question.

Stoo
In the dark you can't see ugly, but you can feel fat
 
Tangowhisky
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 1:18 pm

PILOTLESS AIRPLANES

PRO'S
(1) Removes expensive cockpit instruments, displays, windshield, controls
(2) Eliminate expensive training devices, maintenance of flight deck systems, cockpit related spare parts
(3) No need for flight deck commonality, airplanes can be designed for efficiency over commonality
(4) No need for runway lights, runway and taxi markings
(5) Drastically reduce labor cost per flight hour, no need for crew scheduling, no need for relief pilots, or standby pilots, no more issues about canceling flights due to pilot duty time limits
(6) No need to split airlines into mainline and regionals due to pilot pay-scales, airline industry is open for revolutionary change
(7) Passengers embrace pilotless airplanes like today's driverless world class metros
(8) Airlines accident rates drop due to elimination of human factor errors
(9) Airplanes are cheaper to buy as expensive flight deck equipment are removed and maintenance costs are reduced with less flight deck systems to maintain
(10) Overall operational efficiency gains from new potentials in increased aircraft utilization to lower labor, maintenance, and overhead costs are gained across the airline industry.

CON'S
(1) New type of aircraft control and monitoring systems are required for taxi and ground maneuvering
(2) ATC and Airline Flight Operations need to be redesigned to work in unison
(3) Aircraft systems will need to be highly integrated. This could lead to consolidation of more OEMs and potentially lead to monopoly of sytems suppliers.

I am certain others will find more pro's and con's, but I believe as UAV technologies mature (just like fly-by-wire matured from the military), these benefits will eventually trickle to civil aviation. The future is closer than we think.
Only the paranoid survive
 
zvezda
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:14 pm

Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 32):
Actually, to any problem they are programmed to respond to. And that's using the "If... then..." type of programming.
If someone creates a computer capable of reacting to causes it was not programmed to recognize, and reacting creatively (this may have happened already, though... I'm not really up to date on computer science advances.), then they can react to any problem.

The latest generation of robots work this way.

Quoting SkySurfer (Reply 34):
Well i hope they learn to fly before they learn to walk, otherwise we'll have a few accidents and a few losses of life before our computers learn what to do, but that won't benefit the already dead pax. I understand what you're syaing, but i think it'll take MANY years of tests and unqualified successes before we see a computer take full control, and IF that happens, which airline is willing to risk that leap? That's the big question.

The FAA and other license granting agencies are going to be very careful about granting licenses to robot pilots. They will have to go through all the testing that human pilots go through. They'll probably spend a lot more time in simulators than humans normally do (and won't mind doing so during the nighttime hours that are inconvenient for humans). Also, it'll probably be ten years from the first time a robot flies a Cessna to the first time a robot serves as FO in a freighter and another ten years until one serves as FO in an airliner. That's a lot more time to work the bugs out than Airbus had with fly-by-wire.

Quoting Tangowhisky (Reply 35):
CON'S
(1) New type of aircraft control and monitoring systems are required for taxi and ground maneuvering
(2) ATC and Airline Flight Operations need to be redesigned to work in unison
(3) Aircraft systems will need to be highly integrated. This could lead to consolidation of more OEMs and potentially lead to monopoly of sytems suppliers.

None of those cons exist if my expectations come to fruition. Humanoid robot pilots will learn to fly airplanes using exactly the same flight controls as human pilots. They will interact with ATC exactly like human pilots. It's unlikely that ATC will be able to know (they might suspect) that a particular pilot is a robot, though they would often know a human pilot by the sense of humor.
 
NAV20
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 11:25 pm

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 20):
The newest generation of robots are not programmed to walk. They learn how to walk, just like a human does. They cope (after a short bit of struggling) to walk in new environments (e.g. on sand, inclines, etc.) Eventually, they will learn how to fly an airliner.

Have to say, Zvezda, that surely it would take a fair few hours (not to mention some bent aeroplanes) to teach a guy like that to fly? And I wouldn't care to be the instructor.  Smile

So far, the approach with drones (the best-known being Global Hawk and Predator) has been to use existing systems (GPS satellite navigation, ILS systems etc.). However:-

1. Not even the larger Global Hawk has anything like the size, weight, speed, and power of an airliner.

2. Both types require numerous skilled controllers, on the ground or in the air. I would expect that they have to be pretty well as good at their jobs as pilots - and pretty well as highly-paid.

3. They crash fairly frequently. The military doesn't mind that - in a war, it's better to lose hardware than people - but so far their safety record is nowhere near good enough ever to risk human lives on the technology. Not even military personnel, certainly not paying passengers.
"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
 
zvezda
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RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Wed Sep 13, 2006 11:41 pm

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 37):
Have to say, Zvezda, that surely it would take a fair few hours (not to mention some bent aeroplanes) to teach a guy like that to fly?

Robot pilots would know the elastic limits of the aircraft and would know never to exceed them except to avoid CFIT or collision. I don't think anyone will let a robot fly a Cessna before they can demonstrate mastery in a simulator.
 
Tangowhisky
Posts: 666
Joined: Thu Jun 29, 2006 2:26 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 1:52 am

Zvezda

Approching the pilotless airplanes with robots is a waste and certainly the most inefficient way to address the solution. The solution comes from super integrated aircraft. Why would you want a mechanical robot to feed it data, turn on and off systems, and mechanically learn to fly the plane when you could remove all the cockpit junk and turn this section into a ultra super class section.

Here is my solution:
(1) Every system in the plane is intergrated and minotored by central control and monitoring computers with standby and backup support. For example the lighting computer turns on and off exterior lights as appropriate, and the hydraulics computer turns on and off pumps as required from normal to abnormal to emergency situations. Etc. Etc. Etc.
(2) The autopilot (like current fly by wire systems) directly controls each surface, and flies the plane with electrical signal commands to the electrohydraulic power control actuators. It also controls nosewheel steering, thrust reverser activation, flaps, slats, spoilers, landing gear, brakes for full maneuviring in flight and and on ground.
(3) Airports need to upgrade ATC with more sophisticated data communication systems (ultra CPDLC)
(4) Airline Flight Ops will look like today's ATC rooms monitoring and controlling all their flights and communicating with ATC (imagine 10 controllers per plane, what a reduction in man hours to fly an airliner)
(5) Airports need to upgrade infrastructure such that these aircraft can accurately obtain command instructions, accurate position feedback,and ADS-B type of other aircraft position report, for taxi and ground manuver operations
(6) Weather information needs to be communicated in data form such that decision logic algorithims can understand and make recommendatiosn to Flight Ops for flight plan changes

We are not that far away from achieving all this, and certainly less than decades. What is needed is the will. Remember when there were 5 people in the cockpit: pilot, copilot, flight engineer, radio opeator, navigator
Only the paranoid survive
 
zvezda
Posts: 8891
Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 8:48 pm

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 2:21 am

Quoting Tangowhisky (Reply 39):
Approching the pilotless airplanes with robots is a waste and certainly the most inefficient way to address the solution. The solution comes from super integrated aircraft. Why would you want a mechanical robot to feed it data, turn on and off systems, and mechanically learn to fly the plane when you could remove all the cockpit junk and turn this section into a ultra super class section.

Simple: trust. Not to mention the approximately $1 trillion invested in current airliners that have cockpits.

Quoting Tangowhisky (Reply 39):
Here is my solution:
(1) Every system in the plane is intergrated and minotored by central control and monitoring computers with standby and backup support. For example the lighting computer turns on and off exterior lights as appropriate, and the hydraulics computer turns on and off pumps as required from normal to abnormal to emergency situations. Etc. Etc. Etc.
(2) The autopilot (like current fly by wire systems) directly controls each surface, and flies the plane with electrical signal commands to the electrohydraulic power control actuators. It also controls nosewheel steering, thrust reverser activation, flaps, slats, spoilers, landing gear, brakes for full maneuviring in flight and and on ground.
(3) Airports need to upgrade ATC with more sophisticated data communication systems (ultra CPDLC)
(4) Airline Flight Ops will look like today's ATC rooms monitoring and controlling all their flights and communicating with ATC (imagine 10 controllers per plane, what a reduction in man hours to fly an airliner)
(5) Airports need to upgrade infrastructure such that these aircraft can accurately obtain command instructions, accurate position feedback,and ADS-B type of other aircraft position report, for taxi and ground manuver operations
(6) Weather information needs to be communicated in data form such that decision logic algorithims can understand and make recommendatiosn to Flight Ops for flight plan changes

I would be very hesitant to be a passenger aboard such an airliner. The communication link is a serious problem from both a reliability and security factor. The PiC (human or computer) needs to be onboard.
 
Charliejag1
Posts: 226
Joined: Sun Aug 20, 2006 4:48 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 2:33 am

Quoting StealthZ (Reply 24):
Their consensus was.. take a firm hold of the 2 levers on the centre console.. jam them thru the "firewall".. the plane would have said.."OK you want to fly.. let's fly!!"

I've never flown an Airbus, but as a pilot, the idea that this might not be the case scares the living @#$% out of me.

You are right, I was not in the cockpit during this accident, but it was certainly related to the automation, whether it was a 'glitch' or a problem with the crew understanding the system or misplaced faith, like you said.
 
David L
Posts: 8552
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 2:26 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 3:13 am

Not this old chestnut again. Before guessing at why the A320 crashed at Habsheim, please read this thread. There's a lot of information in there from real Airbus and Boeing pilots who understand much better what happened:
RE: Pilot Vs Computer? Watch This! (by Starlionblue Jan 31 2006 in Civil Aviation)

Quoting Jonno (Reply 14):
If there had been no forest, would the A320 perhaps had a better chance of a rough crash landing?

A better chance, definitely. I'd like to see how a 737 could have magically got out of that situation.

Quoting Charliejag1 (Reply 15):
The plane would not allow the pilots to climb, that was the issue.

Well, yes, but the plane was flying too low and too slow to accelerate and climb instantly. All the automation or seat of the pants flying in the world wasn't going to get them out of that.

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 25):
I'm a firm believer that fly-by-wire systems should, in response to unusual and extreme force on the controls, override all the flight envelope protections. It's better to bend a wing past the elastic limit than to CFIT. If the pilot wants to damage the airframe, there is probably a good reason for it. Having the plane protect itself against accidental or negligent damage is a good thing, but it should back off when the pilot pushes very, very hard.

You're assuming a 737 would just soar into the sky if you heaved back on the controls. The aircraft had been put into a position it should not have been in. Do that in a 737 and it would have stalled into the trees. Please check the link I gave.

Quoting StealthZ (Reply 24):
I flew many sectors in jump seat of A320 in the years after this incident, the major issue is the crew had a misplaced faith in the "system" and it's ability to keep them out of trouble. Basically they had been brainwashed by the "boffins' at Toulouse that the they knew better

I agree on the first point. The crew had too much belief in the system but I think they also miscalculated. Other Airbus pilots would disagree that they were "brainwashed" by Toulouse. They know the Habshaim pilots crossed the line.

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 23):
Just taking landing - probably the trickiest part of any flight - not all airliners have an 'autoland' capability - and even if they do, as I understand it, pilots are not allowed to use the systems except at airports that have the most complete and modern ILS systems. Normally the last phase of any landing is still done manually.

I don't believe that's correct. I think it's only not allowed if not all the airport autoland components are in place or the pilot or aircraft is not certified and the weather is below certain limits. Autoland can be used for training in good weather where it might not be allowed in poor weather. Indeed I think pilots and aircraft must perform autolands at regular intervals. In any case, if reliable pilotless aircraft were to be available, don't you think more airports would be equipped accordingly?

Having said that, I still believe that public perception is the biggest hurdle rather than the technology.
 
wrighbrothers
Posts: 1807
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2005 8:15 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 4:10 am

I personally will not fly a plane without a pilot, unless I have to.
Now I have no doubt the military will have pilot less planes, but civilian planes ?, I personally don't think it will happen for a long time, if ever.

It's a case of human security, people usually put their trust more on a human than on a computer, which is at the end of the day, a circuit board with wires, and while it might be able to react quicker, or make a better decision, people will never put their entire trust in one of these for something as big a commercial airliner.
At the end of the day, you can blame a human, put them in front of a court, and put them in jail, or put a bad name on a dead man/woman.

Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 5):
Computers don't make mistakes.

I think you'll find they do, when the computer crashes, who's fault is that ?

Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 5):
It's only the data that the computers are given
that can be erroneous, and their programming can be incomplete. Human errors.

True, but I'd trust a human over a computer anyday.

Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 5):
and react quicker than a human to any problem,

Again, maybe so, but people still won't trust computers with their lives half way over the atlantic when the engine shuts down.

Wrighbrothers
Always stand up for what is right, even if it means standing alone..
 
Tangowhisky
Posts: 666
Joined: Thu Jun 29, 2006 2:26 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 4:36 am

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 40):
The communication link is a serious problem from both a reliability and security factor. The PiC (human or computer) needs to be onboard.

The communications with Flight Ops is not really neccessary to fly and land the plane, it is an add-on, as the on-board central command and management computer will be capable of fully flying and operating and managing the airplane. Therefore communications with ATC could be in CPDLC data form, and a loss of comminications will not affect the autonomous design of the plane. Furthermore CPDLC can have various frequency backups in HF and, Ghz, satellite band signals.

But I still don't understand why you say....

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 40):
Not to mention the approximately $1 trillion invested in current airliners that have cockpits.

When you say ........

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 25):
They will be able to learn to do anything a human pilot can do. Of course, that's decades away.

By the time your super robots are ready, we could do away with cockpits and have the boxes in he avionics bay fly these planes (my proposed way).

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 40):
would be very hesitant to be a passenger aboard such an airliner.

Did you know that subway metros in Washington DC, Singapore, Paris run as low as 75 seconds apart during rush hour? Did you know that if humans were controlling these trains, we could not achieve such short intervals. Did you also know that most subway riders know that compuetrs not humans are controlling the acceleration, deceleration, and door operations, and the attendands on-board are there for union reasons than anything else. There are no qualms there as people have come used to it.

Look at how many accidents we have had in the last year due to human errors not computer errors: Helios (pressurization off), Comair 5191 (wrong runway), Armavia (situational awareness), Southwest 737 (miscalculculating stopping distance), West Carribean (stall), AF A340 (landing 2/3 down the runway), and still more passengers dying due to human errors over onboard computer errors.

The way to do all this will be in gradual form.
Only the paranoid survive
 
zvezda
Posts: 8891
Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 8:48 pm

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 4:48 am

Quoting Tangowhisky (Reply 44):
By the time your super robots are ready, we could do away with cockpits and have the boxes in he avionics bay fly these planes (my proposed way).

Of course it's technically possible, but I don't think most passengers would be comfortable with it.

Quoting Tangowhisky (Reply 44):
Did you know that subway metros in Washington DC, Singapore, Paris run as low as 75 seconds apart during rush hour? Did you know that if humans were controlling these trains, we could not achieve such short intervals.

Yes, I know that. However, there are failures. That's not a big problem on a rail line. The trains stop until a human figures out the problem. Airliners need to be more reliable.
 
David L
Posts: 8552
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 2:26 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 6:57 am

Quoting David L (Reply 42):
Having said that, I still believe that public perception is the biggest hurdle rather than the technology.

I'd also add that I'm not suggesting we "almost" have the technology that can be trusted absolutely. When it comes, it'll need to be tested for a long time with pilots on board who could take over - and the "IT managers" should not be allowed to ignore the techie's concerns just to earn Brownie points, as most of the ones I've known have.  Smile
 
BOE773
Posts: 413
Joined: Wed Mar 08, 2006 6:02 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 7:13 am

An aircraft cockpit is a heavy piece on the front end of the tube.
All critical info could be collected in a centralized avionics bay, say fwd of the center wing section.
They should haul an old mothballed clunker out of the desert, upgrade the sucker for a fully automated flt profile and launch her around the planet, pilotless, say Edwards to Edwards, just to prove that unmanned flt is possible.

Many naysayers just have a hard time accepting Global Hawk.
Wilbur& Orville, come check out how far we have come with aeronautical stuff!
 
BOE773
Posts: 413
Joined: Wed Mar 08, 2006 6:02 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 9:47 am

Quoting Wrighbrothers (Reply 43):
I personally will not fly a plane without a pilot, unless I have to.
Quoting GAIsweetGAI (Reply 5):
Computers don't make mistakes.
True, but I'd trust a human over a computer anyday.
Wrighbrothers

I respect your weakness, fella.
I bet there were many naysayers like yourself po pooing Wilbur and Orville
about their lofty ideas in those bye gone days.
Would you be against a 777 freighter converted for full auto flt and pilotless?
 
jben
Posts: 64
Joined: Wed Aug 30, 2006 11:42 am

RE: Pilotless Airplanes

Thu Sep 14, 2006 10:53 am

I'm not sure about pilotless aircraft for passengers. There is, however, a place for expert systems. As somebody mentioned before about Sioux City... they were immensely lucky that an Instructor was aboard, Dennis Fitch. What happens next time when an aircraft has to use thrust only and there is no Dennis Fitch as a passenger?

Well, I think having a series of expert systems which can cut in under very unusual circumstances. So, you'd basically have a Dennis Fitch or similar in the cockpit, without him actually being there.

I think that over time, UAV's working as freight aircraft will become the norm. It's a much bigger leap for the flying public to accept that there is no pilot and rely entirely on a computer for control when they are the cargo. The biggest problem I have with complete software control is that a computer can't look out the window and see what's going on.

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