planemaker
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Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:18 pm

From Flight Global, just in time to ring in the New Year...

When will we drop the pilot?

Quote:
With flightdeck systems taking on more flightcrew duties, it may soon be feasible for autonomous or ground-controlled airliners to take to the skies

Note: you have to sign-in to read the above article. However, this article is available without sign-up:

Pilots and ATCOs: who needs them?

This second article highlights a remote ATC op in Sweden.

"For the time being, however, ACROSS (EU multinational research program to develop software to enable intelligent automation for automotive, aerospace and industrial applications) is looking at the automation systems necessary to support reduced crew workload, reduced crew numbers, and systems for replacing pilot functions in the event of crew incapacitation. The prospect of single-pilot operation for large commercial transport aircraft looms."

The above is parallel to the work carried out by GE Aviation and the FAA.

And there is a link to an article from August that outlines a future approach to SP Ops that they may have stole from Light Saber...  
Quote:
Imagine an airline crewroom in 2030. The airline has, say, 300 aeroplanes, but only about 50 pilots. About ten of these will be on duty in the crewroom at any one time. There they have several cockpit-like interfaces that can link them electronically to any of the fleet that’s airborne at the time. They have ten engine and systems engineers to help them. On the rare occasion that something anomalous occurs on an aeroplane, an alert sounds and all the flight and systems data for that aircraft are made available on the interface in real time, together with a systems diagnostic report. They can intervene as effectively as they could have done in the aircraft.

The author is not aware of the geometric progression of information technology. What he is describing is doable now. By 2030 information technology will be 1,000's of times more powerful. They won't need ten engine engineers. Just for an example, individual bearings are now starting to be produced that communicate in real-time individual bearing measurements such as RPM, temp, velocity, vibration, load, etc. Now apply that level of monitoring not just across the component with the bearings, and not just across the entire airplane but the whole fleet, and in real-time coupled with deep QA and data mining trend analysis from all historical data. Way, way before an alert sounds any potential anomaly will have been identified and the potential anomaly preemptively dealt with.

Now that the FAA has selected the UAV test sites the ball will really start to roll. Amazon PrimeAir before 2020 and UATs by 2025.  
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SEPilot
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:36 pm

There is one fundamental problem with automation, and that is that it is only as good as its programmers, and cannot foresee all eventualities. There will always arise problems that have not been foreseen, and only a human can find a successful outcome. They mess up sometimes too, but there have been so many cases (UA232, anyone?) where a human pilot has found a way to rescue or partially rescue a situation where nobody anticipated an airliner would be. And ground controllers are not the answer; one, because most passengers (myself included) would not want to put themselves at the mercy of a pilot safely sitting on the ground in an easy chair, and two, what if the problem involves a failure of the communication with the ground? I for one will never get on a pilotless aircraft; and for that matter, if you need one pilot, you need two.
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flyby519
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:58 pm

Any aircraft controlled by a wireless remote is subject to a hacker, no?
 
planemaker
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:43 am

Quoting SEPilot (Reply 1):
There is one fundamental problem with automation.

First, as laid out in the articles, we are going to be swarmed with UAS's (civil and military), then with SP OPs for cargo (military and civil), then SP Ops with smaller aircraft. At some point along that trajectory UAT's will start to take off and then it will transition to larger and larger aircraft.

Unfortunately, it comes down to "risk & reward"... always has and always will. That is why there is a hodge-podge of safety regs that are grandfathered or NTSB reg suggestions that are ignored (lobbied against).

Quoting SEPilot (Reply 1):
There will always arise problems that have not been foreseen, and only a human can find a successful outcome.

First, there will ALWAYS be a ground standby "crew". Second, by the time we get to larger autonomous airliners the incident probability will be far below the acceptable accident rate. Second, not every pilot is a Scully nor every cockpit has extra senior crew available (UA232, anyone?) .... far from it. Third, by 2030 aviation "Watson's" will far outstrip virtually every pilot in capability.

Quoting SEPilot (Reply 1):
(myself included) would not want to put themselves at the mercy of a pilot safely sitting on the ground in an easy chair

As the article stated, there will be a generational shift to acceptance. How it unfolds exactly no one can predict other than it will happen. Young kids are going to grow up in a world of autonomous cars & drones & robotics in their every day lives. It is similar to the days of the first cars... or elevators where people were petrified to get on them and elevator operators were used in some buildings to reassure clientele long after elevators went fully automatic. In pax travel it will start with autonomous air taxis and work its way up from there to larger aircraft. Some airlines will jump first (probably Ryanair will be the first  ) and develop a clientele that are comfortable with UAS's.
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lightsaber
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 1:00 am

Quoting SEPilot (Reply 1):

There is one fundamental problem with automation, and that is that it is only as good as its programmers, and cannot foresee all eventualities.

Just as today we're only good as the pilots. This is for single pilot ops. The autonomous systems will see in at least four spectrum: visual, near-IR, near-UV, and radar as a minimum. Weather and many other aspects won't be as difficult for the autonomous systems.


But this be the usual discussion... And we're talking implementation in 15 years. The trials have started. Step #1 is allowing military UAVs to travel in FAA airspace without a chase plane.

They're already talking about offering a discount in insurance for auto-driven cars.


The neat thing about commercial aircraft is they only go to known destinations via known approved paths that only have major variation over oceans.

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FlyPNS1
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 1:39 am

Quoting planemaker (Reply 3):
we are going to be swarmed with UAS's (civil and military),

Don't count on it. Government regulation will make the operation of UAS so onerous that the numbers will grow quite slowly. It's taken the FAA almost a decade to even begin putting a real policy about UAVs together and even today, they don't have much. The FAA is already behind on their goal of having a real policy in place by 2015.

Quoting planemaker (Reply 3):
Young kids are going to grow up in a world of autonomous cars & drones & robotics in their every day lives.

Not really. Even if you were born today, you would spend your entire childhood surrounded by human operated vehicles. You might see an occasional drone, but otherwise very little automation.

All of this talk ignores some of the cold hard realities:
1) The ATC infrastructure of the U.S. and much of the rest of the world is not equipped to communicate nor manage a large number of UAV. Given the restricted budgets to modernize these systems, it will take many decades just to get these.
2) The regulatory regime will be complex and onerous and will dramatically slow down this modernization.The safety and security regulations will be brutally difficult to develop and implement.
3) The actual logistics of things like Amazon PrimeAir will be extremely challenging. How will the drones deliver to high rise apartment buildings? Will they just drop the package at the door and hope someone picks it up...that's a recipe for disaster. What happens when a drone fails while on a mission? Who will go and retrieve it? What happens when a drone lands on someones pet and kills it? Will Amazon be held liable?

I'm not saying we won't get there eventually, but I doubt Amazon PrimeAir will be viable by 2020 and I doubt we'll be flying autonomous jetliners in 2030. I think it will take much longer for these technologies to develop.
 
PGNCS
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 2:46 am

When will insurers allow airlines to drop the pilot?

This is not an insignificant question given the liabilities involved.
 
planemaker
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:11 am

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 5):
Don't count on it. Government regulation will make the operation of UAS so onerous that the numbers will grow quite slowly. It's taken the FAA almost a decade to even begin putting a real policy about UAVs together and even today, they don't have much. The FAA is already behind on their goal of having a real policy in place by 2015.

There is tremendous pressure being applied by industry on Congress, especially since sequestration is starting to bite into sales. The only reason why the 2015 target exists is because of that pressure. Otherwise, the FAA would have indeed taken their sweet time to make a careers out of coming up with a roadmap.

BTW, the FAA is being sued by a manufacturer for trying to regulate drones below 500 ft.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 5):
Not really. Even if you were born today, you would spend your entire childhood surrounded by human operated vehicles. You might see an occasional drone, but otherwise very little automation.

Growth is geometric. By the time they hit driving age (in some states), there will already be autonomous vehicles on the road. And before 2020 Amazon will have their PrimeAIr. They adapt to technology at a far greater and faster rate than previous generations. They are not "intimidated" by automation.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 5):
1) The ATC infrastructure of the U.S. and much of the rest of the world is not equipped to communicate nor manage a large number of UAV. Given the restricted budgets to modernize these systems, it will take many decades just to get these.

The US infrastructure is already almost in place. More recently the slow down has been by politicians from congressional districts that halt transitions to the new system because of the job loss in their districts. Furthermore, almost all UAV's for the next decade will fly well below airliner cruising altitude.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 5):
2) The regulatory regime will be complex and onerous and will dramatically slow down this modernization.The safety and security regulations will be brutally difficult to develop and implement.

Actually, the only really critical issue is something that the FAA has been working on... sense and avoid technology... and that is already available. Furthermore, if the FAA loses the court case the FAA won't even be an issue for below 500'.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 5):
3) The actual logistics of things like Amazon PrimeAir will be extremely challenging. How will the drones deliver to high rise apartment buildings? Will they just drop the package at the door and hope someone picks it up...that's a recipe for disaster. What happens when a drone fails while on a mission? Who will go and retrieve it? What happens when a drone lands on someones pet and kills it? Will Amazon be held liable?

I'm not privy to Jeff Bezos' plans but in several interviews he has repeated that they will be ready to go by 2015. Considering the no nonsense nature of the guy and his track record, I would not doubt him. And why would the PrimeAir drone just fall? It has 8 rotors and can fly even is several fail. And why would it land on a pet? Even more pertinent, why would a pet just stand still and allow it to land on it?? And it isn't that the brain trust at Amazon hasn't thought through every scenario.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 5):
I think it will take much longer for these technologies to develop.

The technology is already basically "developed". If we don't have UAV airliners by 2030 (be they RJs or NBs) it certainly won't be because the tech isn't developed.

Quoting PGNCS (Reply 6):
When will insurers allow airlines to drop the pilot?

This is not an insignificant question given the liabilities involved.

When aircraft are built for SP Ops.
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DeltaMD90
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:47 am

As a pilot myself, I see it as inevitable. Maybe it won't be as soon as engineers think but I see it before I turn 65. It is sad but I'm not one to fight technology. I may have to get a second career. I hope for the best

I just look at how technology has exploded and how crazy everything will be in 42 years when I'm 65...
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:55 am

Quoting lightsaber (Reply 4):
The neat thing about commercial aircraft is they only go to known destinations via known approved paths

So do trains, yet the VAST majority of passenger and freight trains are manned, and we've had powered trains far longer than powered aircraft. And crashes of said trains.

Quoting DeltaMD90 (Reply 8):
As a pilot myself, I see it as inevitable.

As a pilot as well, I disagree. I don't see unmanned commercial flights occurring for at least 50 years, if at all; too many variables, far more than with trains and even those aren't automated.

You'd sooner see the safety component of flight attendants done away with and them replaced with onboard vending machines than you'll see a commercial pilot removed from the flight deck.

[Edited 2013-12-31 19:55:58]
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 4:34 am

I have always thought that an important aspect that would prevent the advent of the Pilotless pax aircraft is the knowledge that having a Pilot in control of the aircraft, actually on the aircraft means that he/she is far more likely to have a strong vested interest in a safe outcome for the flight. For fear for their own lives (and no doubt the lives of the passengers), Pilots will always go above and beyond some controller sitting remotely at a desk, to prevent an accident or incident.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:11 am

Quoting EA CO AS (Reply 9):
You'd sooner see the safety component of flight attendants done away with and them replaced with onboard vending machines

Not unless the vending machines are also able to evacuate passengers and handle other safety issues!
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:23 am

Quoting copter808 (Reply 11):
Quoting EA CO AS (Reply 9):You'd sooner see the safety component of flight attendants done away with and them replaced with onboard vending machines
Not unless the vending machines are also able to evacuate passengers and handle other safety issues!

Which is precisely my point; they're not about to do away with flight attendants based on safety, so there's very little chance that pilotless civilian aircraft will ever fly based on the same premise.
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N243NW
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:38 am

Quoting groover158 (Reply 10):
having a Pilot in control of the aircraft, actually on the aircraft means that he/she is far more likely to have a strong vested interest in a safe outcome for the flight

I used to think the same, but honestly I've come to think that this is more or less a fallacy. If it's my career and I'm privy to all the necessary information about the problem at hand, you can be damn sure that I'm going to do whatever is necessary to save the lives of 200 human beings in a metal tube, regardless of whether or not I'm in that same tube. Anyone who wouldn't try their hardest in a situation like this would certainly not be fit to perform the job function...dare I suggest even borderline sociopath.

Now, there are indeed situations (however rare) where physically being in the stricken aircraft will be to your advantage - i.e. being able to see, hear and feel mechanical anomalies more easily and respond to them accordingly. I've yet been convinced that we've reached the level of automation where we can safely navigate enroute weather buildups, deal with seat-of-the-pants flying challenges (like the aforementioned UA232), or handle some other tricky situations without a real butt in the seat.

Not to say it won't happen, but it will likely be loooong into the future (2050, maybe?).
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:33 pm

Quoting groover158 (Reply 10):
Pilots will always go above and beyond some controller sitting remotely at a desk, to prevent an accident or incident.

OTOH, the guy on the ground isn't facing the distraction of his own imminent demise...
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 2:27 pm

Quoting flyby519 (Reply 2):
Any aircraft controlled by a wireless remote is subject to a hacker, no?

flyby519 has a good point here. ...
 
tim73
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:09 pm

Quoting groover158 (Reply 10):
For fear for their own lives (and no doubt the lives of the passengers), Pilots will always go above and beyond some controller sitting remotely at a desk, to prevent an accident or incident.

That is just a fallacy among pilots. Each pilot reacts different ways in an emergency situation. Some panic and make very bad mistakes, some try their best but still manage to ignore crucial info, some are just mentally paralyzed and then only some pilots do all things correctly, even to the bitter end. Pilots always like to think, they belong to the aces of the last group but few in reality are that good.

Old plane vs new plane:
"Boeing 707, 1010 built: 147 incidents with a total of 2737 fatalities."
"Boeing 777, 1126 built, three hull loss accidents and only 4 killed."

The same kind of results in the Airbus side too. Huge improvement in safety with more automated and computerized planes. The flying of planes is changing more and more to a deskjob.

If the telemetry system is good enough, it is much better to be in a batcave with huge screens and with engineers trying to fix the problem of engine and wing damage of a plane up there. At least they might be able to bring the bodies down without crashing the plane.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 4:30 pm

Quoting planemaker (Reply 3):
Third, by 2030 aviation "Watson's" will far outstrip virtually every pilot in capability.

I am pretty sure I can come up with many many many situation where an aviation "Watson's" and a on-ground pilot will not be able to solve but a real on-board human pilot will be able to resolve those situation... now let me see if I can list a few examples...

#1) Let say a lightening strike knocks out all electronics on the plane (oh but but, that's not possible, it could happen no matter how remote)... so now you lost aviation "watson's", as he is fried by the lightening strike... all comms are down now because all comm bus are fried... so what? Nothing will be flying the plane... but if human is around, there is still a chance...

#2) Let say we have an Air France situation, plus we have a comm failure at the same time... So you now have a situation where the computer is confuse, because all the data is conflicting, and you just lost comm, so no human on the ground can provide input... then what can aviation "watson's" do? Nothing, because aviation "watson's" will be so bloody confuse that it doesn't know which system to trust... Once again you are doomed...

#3) Let say you have an uncontained cargo fire... closest airport is 45mins away... what will aviation "watson's" do? Mind you that aviation "watson's" can not distinguish a contained fire or a uncontained fire... no system currently onboard can figure that out, only actual human being onboard can give "best guess" to what is happening to the fire... now with no pilot onboard, the communication systems quickly got burn out, so once again no comm... the flight attendent can't even give input to let the ground people know what is happening... then what will aviation "watson's" do now? Will he continue to fly to the closest airport that is 45 mins away? Or will he be able to do what a human pilot will do, make a crash landing and hope that someone will survive? Knowing that most people will die but maybe a few will lived?

I have at least 15 to 20 more scenarios that I can tell you an aviation "watson's" or a remote pilot will not be able to solve... but a pilot on the plane will be able to...

The issue here are there are way too many variables... unless someone is on the plane, they will not be able to get first hand knowledge to what happen and thus will not be able to come up with the best answer to those scenario... So you will never be able to replace on-board pilot completely... But people will argue, but a pilot on the plane often make mistake and cause errors and putting automation justified the risk... then I will tell you, maybe we should continue to work even harder to reduce the human errors, this is where aviation "watson's" on board will actually be able to help...

Just my two cents!
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:19 pm

I don't see unmanned civil aviation on the horizon in the foreseeable future. The basic technology is already available, and doubtlessly will only improve in the years to come. Still, to really pull this through, one would have to iron out so many quirks that it's probably cheaper to just continue letting people fly the planes.

Compare airways versus open skies. For many years, the technology has been available to do away with airways and flight levels, and just let planes fly straight to their destination on the ideal altitude, avoiding conflicts with P2P computer communication. We could have that today, and it would save thousands of tons of fuel every day. And yet we don't. The amount of international, cross-industry collaboration, the effort of establishing standards, procedures, laws, upgrading the infrastructure, and so on, has so far been prohibitive.

Aviation seems to be progressing rapidly, and in many ways it is, but in other ways we're still caught in amazingly strong path dependencies. Look at all the new and innovative design concepts for new airliners. Blended-wing body, subsonic cruiser, etc. And yet, we still build tubes with two wings attached, much like in the 1950s. I feel that manned cockpits will be another one of these path dependencies.

Quoting wowpeter (Reply 17):
#1) Let say a lightening strike knocks out all electronics on the plane (oh but but, that's not possible, it could happen no matter how remote)... so now you lost aviation "watson's", as he is fried by the lightening strike... all comms are down now because all comm bus are fried... so what? Nothing will be flying the plane... but if human is around, there is still a chance...

Yes, but when does that ever happen? When did lightning last knock all electronics out, but the aircraft was still recovered by a human pilot? That's practically a non-possibility.

Quoting wowpeter (Reply 17):
#2) Let say we have an Air France situation, plus we have a comm failure at the same time... So you now have a situation where the computer is confuse, because all the data is conflicting, and you just lost comm, so no human on the ground can provide input... then what can aviation "watson's" do? Nothing, because aviation "watson's" will be so bloody confuse that it doesn't know which system to trust... Once again you are doomed...

The Air France plane was doomed, with two and a half human pilots in the cockpit. Chances are very high that the plane wouldn't have crashed, it if had been piloted by an artificial intelligence which would just have followed the procedures.

AF447 is probably the worst argument in favour of human pilots you could come up with.

Quoting wowpeter (Reply 17):
#3) Let say you have an uncontained cargo fire... closest airport is 45mins away... what will aviation "watson's" do? Mind you that aviation "watson's" can not distinguish a contained fire or a uncontained fire... no system currently onboard can figure that out, only actual human being onboard can give "best guess" to what is happening to the fire... now with no pilot onboard, the communication systems quickly got burn out, so once again no comm... the flight attendent can't even give input to let the ground people know what is happening... then what will aviation "watson's" do now? Will he continue to fly to the closest airport that is 45 mins away? Or will he be able to do what a human pilot will do, make a crash landing and hope that someone will survive? Knowing that most people will die but maybe a few will lived?

Again, when did that ever happen? When did a human pilot successfully crash-land a burning plane that an artificial pilot could not have saved?

Let's not forget that with nearly 100.000 scheduled flights every day, 365 days a year, we have an insanely good database of what kind of stuff actually happens to airplanes, and what kind of stuff doesn't. While a situation where a human pilot crashes a burning plane into the ground to save some few lifes could theoretically happen, in practice it doesn't. So that's really no argument against automated planes.
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tim73
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:19 pm

Quoting wowpeter (Reply 17):
Let say a lightening strike knocks out all electronics on the plane (oh but but, that's not possible, it could happen no matter how remote)... so now you lost aviation "watson's", as he is fried by the lightening strike... all comms are down now because all comm bus are fried... so what? Nothing will be flying the plane... but if human is around, there is still a chance...

#2) Let say we have an Air France situation, plus we have a comm failure at the same time... So you now have a situation where the computer is confuse, because all the data is conflicting, and you just lost comm, so no human on the ground can provide input... then what can aviation "watson's" do? Nothing, because aviation "watson's" will be so bloody confuse that it doesn't know which system to trust... Once again you are doomed...

#3) Let say you have an uncontained cargo fire...

#1: Engineers today are very good at shielding electronics from lightning. Anything short of nuclear EMP strike nearby can be dealt with (fighter planes are even shielded against those btw). Lighting protection circuit reaction time is calculated in NANOSECONDS today. If it were somehow possible to generate so powerful lightning strike, it would knock out much more than just the comms. Possibly blow up the plane itself right away. But then again you would be flying in planet Jupiter atmosphere  

#2: Data would have been conflicting but somebody could have said from the "batcave" to fly level with 85 percent power etc etc. Somebody seeing the forest out of the trees...anyway there would be multiple level of comms, even portable satellite phones. If the lightning were able to fry even those, the crew and the passengers would be fried to death too.

#3: Well, Swissair Flight 111 crew could not do anything anyway with onboard fire.

Yes, there are always going to be one out of one million situations where being present would be more desirable or even crucial. But if the overall safety level can be increased with remote pilots, it will be done. Each of those one out ouf one million situations will be also taken into account in the next plane upgrades.

The last generation planes, 777 and 330s, were more automated because pilots were not that trustworthy. Jets are just too slick and fast to be left to be controlled by pilots alone, too easy to make mistakes. Only mostly former fighter pilots are that good (Finnair with unbeatable safety record for example had a lot of them in the 70-90's). Automation today is there to make the job easier and either warn (Boeing, soft limits) or prevent mistakes (Airbus, flight envelope with hard limits).

Pilots in bigger planes are already almost computer deskjockeys, they just do not realize it  
 
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hOMSaR
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:07 pm

Quoting SEPilot (Reply 1):
There is one fundamental problem with automation, and that is that it is only as good as its programmers, and cannot foresee all eventualities. There will always arise problems that have not been foreseen, and only a human can find a successful outcome. They mess up sometimes too, but there have been so many cases (UA232, anyone?) where a human pilot has found a way to rescue or partially rescue a situation where nobody anticipated an airliner would be. And ground controllers are not the answer; one, because most passengers (myself included) would not want to put themselves at the mercy of a pilot safely sitting on the ground in an easy chair, and two, what if the problem involves a failure of the communication with the ground? I for one will never get on a pilotless aircraft; and for that matter, if you need one pilot, you need two.

In recent years, how many crashes/fatalities have been avoided by superb piloting skills in the face of never-before-seen circumstances vs. how many have occurred due to pilot error on an otherwise good plane?

Quoting wowpeter (Reply 17):
#3) Let say you have an uncontained cargo fire... closest airport is 45mins away... what will aviation "watson's" do? Mind you that aviation "watson's" can not distinguish a contained fire or a uncontained fire... no system currently onboard can figure that out, only actual human being onboard can give "best guess" to what is happening to the fire... now with no pilot onboard, the communication systems quickly got burn out, so once again no comm... the flight attendent can't even give input to let the ground people know what is happening... then what will aviation "watson's" do now? Will he continue to fly to the closest airport that is 45 mins away? Or will he be able to do what a human pilot will do, make a crash landing and hope that someone will survive? Knowing that most people will die but maybe a few will lived?

There are also onboard fires that kill pilots long before the plane can make it back to an airfield. If, by some chance, the plane is still flyable, the computer could get the plane on the ground safely (maybe important when flying over populated areas with potential ground casualties) whereas the pilots, being incapacitated, would not. As Rara said, the scenario you pose has never happened on a commercial airliner.
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:31 pm

The day commercial aircraft are flying without pilots in the plane and at the controls is the day I stop flying. There is something nice about knowing the person flying the plane has a vested interest in landing safely. If a drone pilot crashes a plane he just gets a new plane.
Indy = Indianapolis and not Independence Air
 
tim73
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:51 pm

Quoting Indy (Reply 21):
There is something nice about knowing the person flying the plane has a vested interest in landing safely.

That vested interest in many cases so easily turns into fear and panic. Teamwork disintegrates, vision narrows, crew start ignoring some alarms at the expense of others. You start making idiotic, elementary mistakes under intense stress. Some crews can handle it all but not all of them. Not to even mention a crew flying with smoke in the cockpit.

A remote pilot could call a supervisor and an engineer and they can start figuring out what is wrong. They could even train special alarm crews for these situations. A group of pilots who train all the time emergency situations in simulations, not just once a year like regular pilots. SWAT team of the skies.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:12 pm

What we are forgetting is human psychology. Huamans throw facts and reality out the window and instead make these kinds of decisions based on whether they feel in control or not. We all know that air travel is many times more safe than driving but a person may choose not to fly in an aircraft that is unmanned in the cockpit but get in their car with bald tires and speed in icy conditions. The latter is a case where the person feels in control, even though they are at the mercy of road conditions, weather and other drivers.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:25 pm

Quoting tim73 (Reply 22):
That vested interest in many cases so easily turns into fear and panic. Teamwork disintegrates, vision narrows, crew start ignoring some alarms at the expense of others. You start making idiotic, elementary mistakes under intense stress. Some crews can handle it all but not all of them. Not to even mention a crew flying with smoke in the cockpit.

Yet you post no facts to back that up. Those are just melodramatic assumptions on your part.

I know a crew that landed an aircraft with smoke in the cockpit. Only their systems knowledge, stick and rudder skills and "out-of-the-box" thinking allowed them to purge the smoke to some level and get the aircraft safely on the ground. If they had followed the exact procedure, they probably wouldn't have made the airport.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 22):

A remote pilot could call a supervisor and an engineer and they can start figuring out what is wrong. They could even train special alarm crews for these situations. A group of pilots who train all the time emergency situations in simulations, not just once a year like regular pilots. SWAT team of the skies.


A pipedream.

You're going to "call in" a team of experts to handle a situation in which you likely have seconds to react? You're going to bring this team up to speed from knowing nothing at all about the aircraft's status and situation over the course of, oh, 10-20 seconds? That's not going to happen.

Look, I don't believe anyone's saying it can't be done. I believe it absolutely can be done. Not right now, but perhaps in the next 50-60 years. Maybe.

Why isn't it being done now? Cost. It simply isn't worth it. The costs of implementation FAR outweigh the economic benefits of getting rid of the "useless" pilots.

1) Cost of certification ($$$$$). Certification of passenger-carrying drones would be unequivocally the largest task ever taken on by the FAA. It would take years, face incredible scrutiny from safety watchdogs, Congress, special interest groups. It would face budget pressure, technological constraints and public outcries.

2) Cost of overhauling infrastructure/designing and certifying new aircraft/bringing these fleets online ($$$$$). Retrofits with the technology to even make some existing airplanes single-pilot capable would run into the millions of dollars per existing airframe, making this cost-prohibitive. That leaves you with waiting for single-pilot or unpiloted airliners to be developed, certified and brought online. With this not even on the radar yet, this is probably at least 40-50 years away.

And those are just the major reasons.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 19):
Pilots in bigger planes are already almost computer deskjockeys, they just do not realize it  

I really don't believe you know what you're talking about.
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:41 pm

Quoting planemaker (Reply 7):
By the time they hit driving age (in some states), there will already be autonomous vehicles on the road.

Not likely. Once again, the regulatory environment will be a significant problem. Also, the chaotic nature of road traffic makes autonomous vehicles even less likely for roads compared to the relatively controlled environment of space. I'm sure we'll get there someday, but it will take far longer than most expect.

Quoting planemaker (Reply 7):
The US infrastructure is already almost in place.

No, it's not. Controllers have no effective way to communicate with autonomous vehicles. If a controller were to issue a command to tell a drone to reduce altitude, there's no established system in place for that to happen today or anytime in the future. Without this capability, drones will be very limited to operating in only uncontrolled airspace, however that limitation limits their effectiveness.

Quoting planemaker (Reply 7):
I'm not privy to Jeff Bezos' plans but in several interviews he has repeated that they will be ready to go by 2015. Considering the no nonsense nature of the guy and his track record, I would not doubt him.

The whole Amazon PrimeAir thing was a publicity stunt for Amazon conveniently timed to occur at the beginning of the Christmas holiday shopping season. The drones that Amazon wants to use don't have enough range/payload to be useful and even worse, they perform very poorly in bad weather which means they will be ineffective in some parts of the country for a significant period of time.

The other problem is economies of scale. UAV's right now have terrible economies of scale. While they do save some on human labor cost, they have so little capacity, that they are not economically efficient. The reason FedEx and UPS work is that they have massive economies of scale that make shipment economical. UAVs will eventually have those same economies of scale, but not by 2020 or even 2030.

As others have pointed out, if unmanned travel was so easy, we'd already have it in the rail industry. Rail is much less complex since you are on fixed guideways with fixed traffic volumes and limited intersecting traffic. The technology for automated rail lines has been around since the 1960's. Yet even today, almost every major subway and rail line still has engineers or drivers. The only exception are small limited use people mover trains like those found in airports.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:45 pm

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 24):
Yet you post no facts to back that up. Those are just melodramatic assumptions on your part.

I know a crew that landed an aircraft with smoke in the cockpit. Only their systems knowledge, stick and rudder skills and "out-of-the-box" thinking allowed them to purge the smoke to some level and get the aircraft safely on the ground. If they had followed the exact procedure, they probably wouldn't have made the airport.

There will be always these isolated heroic stories but in reality 66 percent of accidents are caused by the flight crew, mostly due to lost of control. For every fortunate story, there is 10 not so fortunate stories of pilots causing an accident.

One example of automation. Airbus has a program to control the plane using minute changes in engine powers, without the rudder. Very few pilots if any could do that.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:26 pm

Quoting tim73 (Reply 16):
That is just a fallacy among pilots. Each pilot reacts different ways in an emergency situation. Some panic and make very bad mistakes, some try their best but still manage to ignore crucial info, some are just mentally paralyzed and then only some pilots do all things correctly, even to the bitter end. Pilots always like to think, they belong to the aces of the last group but few in reality are that good.

As I said earlier, every pilot likes to think that he is a "Sully" (and even Sully made mistakes).

Quoting tim73 (Reply 16):
Old plane vs new plane:
"Boeing 707, 1010 built: 147 incidents with a total of 2737 fatalities."
"Boeing 777, 1126 built, three hull loss accidents and only 4 killed."

The same kind of results in the Airbus side too. Huge improvement in safety with more automated and computerized planes. The flying of planes is changing more and more to a deskjob.

Agreed. As pointed out earlier, AHMS's will be incredibly powerful and will be able to predict component/system degradation long before failure.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 16):
If the telemetry system is good enough, it is much better to be in a batcave with huge screens and with engineers trying to fix the problem of engine and wing damage of a plane up there. At least they might be able to bring the bodies down without crashing the plane.

By the time we have flights in large pax aircraft with no pilots those scenario will be precluded by the AHMS.

Quoting Rara (Reply 18):
I don't see unmanned civil aviation on the horizon in the foreseeable future. The basic technology is already available, and doubtlessly will only improve in the years to come. Still, to really pull this through, one would have to iron out so many quirks that it's probably cheaper to just continue letting people fly the planes.

Most of the cost is already being borne by the DoD so, as in almost all tech we use, we get more or less a free ride.

Quoting Indy (Reply 21):
The day commercial aircraft are flying without pilots in the plane and at the controls is the day I stop flying. There is something nice about knowing the person flying the plane has a vested interest in landing safely. If a drone pilot crashes a plane he just gets a new plane.

An understandable emotional issue. It is similar to people who are currently afraid to fly. And as the article states, industry recognizes it.

However, I don't know why but it seems as though the majority of people on here are ignoring all the steps before we get to large pax airliners with no pilots.

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 24):
You're going to "call in" a team of experts to handle a situation in which you likely have seconds to react? You're going to bring this team up to speed from knowing nothing at all about the aircraft's status and situation over the course of, oh, 10-20 seconds? That's not going to happen.

Read above about AHMS.

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 24):
Why isn't it being done now? Cost. It simply isn't worth it. The costs of implementation FAR outweigh the economic benefits of getting rid of the "useless" pilots.

No one, absolutely no one is even remotely imagining doing it with today's generation of aircraft. As repeatedly pointed out, there are several steps before we get to that point. However, as the article says, long before we have no pilots we will have one pilot and that is a huge cost saving.

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 24):
1) Cost of certification ($$$$$). Certification of passenger-carrying drones would be unequivocally the largest task ever taken on by the FAA. It would take years, face incredible scrutiny from safety watchdogs, Congress, special interest groups. It would face budget pressure, technological constraints and public outcries.

No it won't, at all, because the technology will have already been proven with small drones, cargo drones and SP OPS aircraft.

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 24):
2) Cost of overhauling infrastructure/designing and certifying new aircraft/bringing these fleets online ($$$$$). Retrofits with the technology to even make some existing airplanes single-pilot capable would run into the millions of dollars per existing airframe, making this cost-prohibitive. That leaves you with waiting for single-pilot or unpiloted airliners to be developed, certified and brought online. With this not even on the radar yet, this is probably at least 40-50 years away.

Again, no. As pointed out earlier, the FAA and GE Aviation have been working on "reduced-crew" aircraft and, as the article states, so is Europe. Not to mention that Embraer has already started work on SP OPS airliners as a very natural extension of their SP OPS biz jets.

And, as pointed out earlier, the technology is basically for "free" (since we piggy back on the DoD going UAS).

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 25):
Not likely. Once again, the regulatory environment will be a significant problem. Also, the chaotic nature of road traffic makes autonomous vehicles even less likely for roads compared to the relatively controlled environment of space. I'm sure we'll get there someday, but it will take far longer than most expect.

Robot cars are ALREADY approved for use in some states under certain conditions. Google's fleet of robot cars have driven close to 1,000,000 miles all over California. England and Sweden in are in a race to see who can get a robot cars on their roads (Sweden, for examples, expects to trial 100 robot cars by 2017!) Every single auto maker is working on robot cars and Nissan expects to have theirs in showrooms before 2020.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 25):
No, it's not. Controllers have no effective way to communicate with autonomous vehicles. If a controller were to issue a command to tell a drone to reduce altitude, there's no established system in place for that to happen today or anytime in the future. Without this capability, drones will be very limited to operating in only uncontrolled airspace, however that limitation limits their effectiveness.

Actually, they do.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 25):
Yet even today, almost every major subway and rail line still has engineers or drivers. The only exception are small limited use people mover trains like those found in airports.

There are unmanned rapid transit systems like Detroit's in several major cities. And that is the path forward. In Australia they have unmanned ore trains now travelling 1,000s of miles.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 26):
There will be always these isolated heroic stories

Even the oft mentioned UA232 just couldn't happen today, let alone with the technology a decade + out. And, at the end of the day, these outliers, unfortunately, just don't really matter from an industry point of view.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 26):
One example of automation. Airbus has a program to control the plane using minute changes in engine powers, without the rudder. Very few pilots if any could do that.

And, as has been pointed out numerous times in these threads, Rockwell Collins has developed flight control software that allowed, for example, a sub-scale F-18 to continue flying and landing even though it had 80% of its wing detached in mid-flight.
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:27 pm

Quoting tim73 (Reply 26):
There will be always these isolated heroic stories but in reality 66 percent of accidents are caused by the flight crew, mostly due to lost of control. For every fortunate story, there is 10 not so fortunate stories of pilots causing an accident.

"Isolated heroic stories" don't always make the news. Pilot error crashes most definitely do. Besides, who is to say you won't be trading one set of accidents for another? Flight safety with pilots vs. computer control has reached a point of diminishing returns as of late. It's been more safe this decade, by far, than at any point in the past. It's just not worth it.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 26):
One example of automation. Airbus has a program to control the plane using minute changes in engine powers, without the rudder. Very few pilots if any could do that.

You do realize that programs to control an airplane's flight path through engine thrust (which, incidentally, was started in earnest by McDonnell Douglas and NASA in the 1990s) were initiated due to the relative success of airliners using this completely-untrained technique to make successful emergency landings, don't you? In addition to United 232 at SUX, I specifically recall the case of a Delta L-1011 in California that took off with a stabilizer jammed full up (but indicating in normal takeoff range).
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:34 pm

Quoting planemaker (Reply 27):

No it won't, at all, because the technology will have already been proven with small drones, cargo drones and SP OPS aircraft.

That's a boatload of assumptions you have there. How long is that progression going to take? I think your timeline is ambitious at best. When you add people, the flying public, into the mix...all those assumptions go out the window.

I've followed your crusade against piloted aircraft for many years. Your dedication to the cause is, well, singular.

I think this program is about as likely in the next 60+ years as another SST. Actually, I'd give the SST greater odds.
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:49 pm

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 29):
That's a boatload of assumptions you have there.

No asusmptions at all. The technology already exists and will only get better and cheaper.

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 29):
I've followed your crusade against piloted aircraft for many years. Your dedication to the cause is, well, singular.

Posting articles from major industry periodicals is hardly a crusade and nor is it singular.   

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 29):
I think this program is about as likely in the next 60+ years as another SST. Actually, I'd give the SST greater odds.

And people on here were saying the same sort of things about robot cars just a couple of years ago... and yet we already have Google's robot cars having driven close to 1,000,000 miles all over California.
Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:05 pm

Quoting EA CO AS (Reply 9):
So do trains, yet the VAST majority of passenger and freight trains are manned, and we've had powered trains far longer than powered aircraft.

Trains are the perfect example! Look how much more efficient they are. Once upon a time one would have an engineer, assistant engineer, a stoker, and a fireman (or two) then at there would be 3 to 5 breakmen. Eventually it went to two engineers and one breakman in the caboose. Now it is one engineer (a 2nd if a trainee) for the train and many subways have remote control (no human).

I don't see the first steps removing the pilot. But look at the OZ 777 crash. Now Boeing will probably end up putting in a warning, but these will be next generation aircraft! The 777 flies on an intel 486, with a motorola 64040 as 2nd backup, and some AMD RISC chip as the tertiary backup (but with three computers boxes, each as described). Now imagine a plane with the latest octocore cell phone processors.    Current state of the art is the PPC7410.    Circa 2001 laptop chip as the last high performance and low power consumption chip. After a decade of 100W+ CPUs, we now, thanks to the cell phones and tablets, have at aerospace's disposal high performance *and* low power chips.

This will accelerate.

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 29):
I think this program is about as likely in the next 60+ years as another SST. Actually, I'd give the SST greater odds.

This will save money per flight. First it will be the insurance companies demanding more autonomous features be added to avoid another OZ 777 crash. Then people will realize we can save money with one pilot (keep the 2nd seat for a trainee as with locomotives).

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 25):
The whole Amazon PrimeAir thing was a publicity stunt for Amazon conveniently timed to occur at the beginning of the Christmas holiday shopping season.

So? It has everyone talking about the possibilities. This will take years.

The upcoming generation of UAVs is *far* more sophisticated than prior generations. I had the please to work on UCAS for a few months doing testing on the software and it left me amazed how superior that platform is to the old Globalhawks. But NUCAS (build on a Global Hawk) is pushing the software even further. And UCLASS?   

http://news.usni.org/2013/11/12/navy...ifted-plans-acquire-tougher-uclass

And then all the work for UAVs in FAA airspace. e.g., Fire

Let us stop looking in the rear view mirror. With better UAVs, if a pilot shortage ever happens, people will as why not fly autonomously. UCLASS is pushing all four bidders to do far more with UAVs than ever before considered. This will be like jet engines, it takes a military program (KC-135) to pay for the initial. But the computers/software for UCLASS will be in such a different league.

Quoting planemaker (Reply 27):
Most of the cost is already being borne by the DoD so, as in almost all tech we use, we get more or less a free ride.

  

e.g. Northrop's "Firebird"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_Grumman_Firebird

The only reason that plane has a cockpit is that its cheaper in development than a chaseplane (required for UAVs through FAA controlled airspace). Both Northrop and the funding agency want to remove the cockpit (aerodynamics and weight) and put in more computers, communication gear, and cameras.

That leaves a question of when.

It also raises a question of what the DOD Hawker (UAV simulator) it up to in 2014... it was released from the duty I know about supposedly for research on UAVs in civil airspace... but was it?

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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:06 pm

Which one is actually harder to program, self-driving car or self-flying plane?

Self-driving car hands down. You are driving in unpredictable and ever-changing close "formations". There are no centralized "car" traffic control systems. The control system is limited and subject to fast changing road conditions. There is cross traffic, roundabout traffic, tunnel, bridge traffic etc etc. Other car drivers make unpredictable changes in those formations and do not obey the rules all the time. A drunk driver ignoring a stop sign or driving erratically for example. Add to that pedestrians, animals, lousy roads and dirty road signs, bad weather conditions. You need boatloads of proximity sensors and program code to control all that in millions of different situations.

Compared to all that controlling an airplane is basically child's play. Ironically, flying is hard to learn for humans but not for computers. Self-driving car is like 50 helicopters in close formation making independent decisions each, some of them ignoring other planes completely at times or/and ignoring common rules.

[Edited 2014-01-01 13:08:55]

[Edited 2014-01-01 13:12:09]

[Edited 2014-01-01 13:14:59]
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:48 pm

Quoting JBirdAV8r (Reply 28):
Flight safety with pilots vs. computer control has reached a point of diminishing returns as of late.

   Where are you getting that from? The computers on aircraft really haven't been updated in a decade due to the lack of high performance *and* low power processors. See my post #31. Everything is changing.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 32):
Which one is actually harder to program, self-driving car or self-flying plane?

Self-driving car hands down.

Easily car are far more difficult, but it will happen. It will be safer. On average 89 people are killed per day with cars... I bet automation could cut that by 95% easily.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...tor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year

I look at it this way. I know of only test pilots killed by aircraft. For every test pilot I know who injured or dead, I know several people killed or maimed for life in cars; I came out of flight test too! I know of not one person who died in a private or commercial plane crash among all the people I associate with. The only deaths I know are test pilots (half were the job and half were the pilots being allowed to 'play' and found defects... oops).

Quoting tim73 (Reply 32):
Self-driving car is like 50 helicopters in close formation making independent decisions each, some of them ignoring other planes completely at times or/and ignoring common rules.

   Plus pedestrians which commercial aircraft won't have to deal with (separate paths).

Quoting planemaker (Reply 27):
Every single auto maker is working on robot cars and Nissan expects to have theirs in showrooms before 2020.

So they won't be first to market?  
Quoting planemaker (Reply 27):
Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 25):
Yet even today, almost every major subway and rail line still has engineers or drivers. The only exception are small limited use people mover trains like those found in airports.

There are unmanned rapid transit systems like Detroit's in several major cities. And that is the path forward. In Australia they have unmanned ore trains now travelling 1,000s of miles.

I feel safer on automated transit. Computers do not get bored and they 'fail safe.' FlyPNS1, have you really not been on automated subway? For many the only reason they have a driver is a strong union. In the old days trains had crews of 8 to 10. Now, it is usually one individual.

Before full autonomous flights, I think we'll have autonomous copilots. It will take a while for the public to agree to full piloted control.

FWIW, the chrome bug with a.net drives me nuts...

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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:55 pm

Quoting planemaker (Reply 27):
No it won't, at all, because the technology will have already been proven with small drones, cargo drones and SP OPS aircraft.

Those would not be sufficient analogies for the FAA. Unmanned passenger drones would need a whole new set of regulations above and beyond those with cargo drones and SP OPS.

Quoting planemaker (Reply 30):
And people on here were saying the same sort of things about robot cars just a couple of years ago... and yet we already have Google's robot cars having driven close to 1,000,000 miles all over California.

We've had robot cars for almost 30 years. The technology isn't new. Google is just the latest to jump on the bandwagon. I'm sure they'll continue to move it along, but it's a long way off from being consumer ready, not to mention the economics of it.

Quoting planemaker (Reply 27):
Actually, they do.

Not in the U.S. they don't.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:09 pm

Quoting tim73 (Reply 32):
Self-driving car hands down. You are driving in unpredictable and ever-changing close "formations". There are no centralized "car" traffic control systems. The control system is limited and subject to fast changing road conditions. There is cross traffic, roundabout traffic, tunnel, bridge traffic etc etc. Other car drivers make unpredictable changes in those formations and do not obey the rules all the time. A drunk driver ignoring a stop sign or driving erratically for example. Add to that pedestrians, animals, lousy roads and dirty road signs, bad weather conditions. You need boatloads of proximity sensors and program code to control all that in millions of different situations.

Compared to all that controlling an airplane is basically child's play. Ironically, flying is hard to learn for humans but not for computers. Self-driving car is like 50 helicopters in close formation making independent decisions each, some of them ignoring other planes completely at times or/and ignoring common rules.

People with no actual experience flying an airplane believe it is only a matter of physically controlling the aircraft. The technology of flying an aircraft from take off to touchdown has existed for many years. The issue is the ability to analyze and make correct decisions in a dynamic, constantly changing environment. And with over 40 years of experience of driving a car and flying an airplane, I can assure you operating an automobile in a two-dimensional environment is far less demanding than flying.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:01 pm

I don’t really know whether to cry or to roll over laughing at the amount of un-informed bullshit on this thread.
That people believe in a future world taken over by super-intelligent computers ( and what will that make of us, mere feeble-minded humans, I ask ?) is fine by me : I won’t be there to be one of those slaves, so callously I just say “Après moi, le deluge !”
As the OP has been asked many times to define *Intelligence* and lamentably failed to do so, taking refuge behind a “prospective exponential curve of IT technology “ and a beloved “Watson” whose only so-called intelligence lays in an enormous data base and computing power, and same OP isn’t bringing anything new to the debate, I sort of stayed away from this.
Unfortunately, bulls are apparently still making feces that are not only bad for the green house effect but pollute a site that I happen to like a lot.
So here I am.

Lightsaber # 4 : The autonomous systems will see in at least four spectrum: visual, near-IR, near-UV, and radar as a minimum. Weather and many other aspects won't be as difficult for the autonomous systems.

1/- Why all these vision spectra ? They are studied for the human pilot… so much that they already allow CatIII manual approaches and landings for a –still very few- airlines concerned with their economics… HUDs are now standard in this generation of airliners and I foresee a generalization of manual landings down to Cat III minima..
When that happens, the redundancy needed for full autoland will be un-necessary, hence further savings.

2/- As to weather, suffice to look at a synoptic weather chart scale ( the lines you see are some 10 to 20 nm wide ! ) to start understanding the accuracy of a local forecast. .. and studies are still on,-going for detection of CAT.

Lightsabe #4 : The neat thing about commercial aircraft is they only go to known destinations via known approved paths that only have major variation over oceans.

That, I’m afraid denotes your total misunderstanding of airline operations. Dispatchers routinely devise our paths based on their knowledge of the traffic and the weather. There is no JFK-SFO route and coded as such.

Planemaker # 7 : The US infrastructure is already almost in place.

The US has still quite a lot to go in terms of future ATC and certainly lags behind the studies done in the EU ( SESAR comes to mind ) and certainly are not ready to implement an UAV-friendly system.

Planemaker # 7 : Furthermore, almost all UAV's for the next decade will fly well below airliner cruising altitude.

… and that in your opinion is progress and economic sense ?

Tim73 # 19 : Data would have been conflicting but somebody could have said from the "batcave" to fly level with 85 percent power etc etc. Somebody seeing the forest out of the trees.

Problem is that the aircraft transmitted all the faults that occurred and neither the on-board automaton ( it just packed up and went away or the ground engineers who received the ACARS messages could make sense out of the available info. It was days before a comparison with the messages from other airliners which encountered a pitot icing situation that we started to theorize on the events.
There is a lot more to do than you think on failure messages and their interpretation, let alone their eventual diagnostic.

tim73 # 22 : A remote pilot could call a supervisor and an engineer and they can start figuring out what is wrong.

Have you ever heard about com lag ? Next time you watch TV, count the seconds between the anchor (wo)man question and the answer from the on-site reporter… then imagine the sort of delay – not counting of course the time one needs to call some supervisor from his coffee or his comics book… when the automaton packs up at 100 ft or below. I posit that the result could be a bit gory…which is, as I recall fine for some ghouls groups.
( See JBirdAV8r post # 24 )

Ttm73 # 29 : [i]One example of automation. Airbus has a program to control the plane using minute changes in engine powers, without the rudder. Very few pilots if any could do that.
…and yet, these guys at Sioux City and the DHL A300 guys in Baghdad did exactly that… Fancy that !   

On the other hand, there are many things a pilot does of which the black box is incapable; Xwind landings at gusts over 35 kt, for instance. And I have news for you: there is no autopilot than can cope with a simple bounced landing.

As for UAVs as the precursors to what’s going to happen in airline flying, the least I can say is that I’m certainly not impressed. The accident rate is an order’ of magnitude higher than the industry (so much that the USAF is probably the most efficient organization ,for runway debris-cleaning !)
As for cost-effectiveness, the jury is still very much out to determine its superiority over piloted reconnaissance aircraft.

Lastly, the day you proponents of the automaton can clearly define what intelligence is, then apply it to a robot… then define the piloting tasks in the flight deck, you’ll gain a lot more credibility. Replacing old 386 chips by quad-core processors is not the answer… and neither is that remote operator in an air-conditioned room and his fellows computer geeks.
Until then, I happily leave you to your pipe dream., as JbirdAV8r with a lot of sense, said earlier.
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leonardoq
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:09 am

I hope I am not alive to see this happening.

Working with aviation is not only a privilege but (being a pilot) is of the best professions out there... no matter what happens, sitting in a flight deck is just the most amazing and rewarding experience...
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FlyHossD
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:22 am

Quoting planemaker (Reply 7):
I'm not privy to Jeff Bezos' plans but in several interviews he has repeated that they will be ready to go by 2015. Considering the no nonsense nature of the guy and his track record, I would not doubt him. And why would the PrimeAir drone just fall?

As I understand the FAA's proposed drone rules, Jeff Bezo's plans will NOT conform to the regulations. That is, he's already struck out before even reaching the batter's box.
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lightsaber
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:00 am

Quoting Pihero (Reply 36):
1/- Why all these vision spectra ? They are studied for the human pilot… so much that they already allow CatIII manual approaches and landings for a –still very few- airlines concerned with their economics… HUDs are now standard in this generation of airliners and I foresee a generalization of manual landings down to Cat III minima..
When that happens, the redundancy needed for full autoland will be un-necessary, hence further savings.

Why so many, its easy with UAVs.   Seriously, applications have been found where instruments were on a UAV for another purpose (e.g., spying) and that if that information had been available to the computers, safety of flight would be dramatically improved. The cost is about to drop significantly. The harder part is the human interface where the data is cut down to what we can process. Computers handle 4 spectra+ data easy.

I wish I could talk about the aspects, but an NDA keeps me from giving details how how much better the cameras have become in the last few years. What I'm talking about couldn't be done prior to 2008. Its like the invention of the jet engine, a simple technology change will alter everything. Mostly thanks to the HUGE demand for cell phone cameras...    Seriously, smart phone adoption has changed the economics of too many things to ignore...

Some crashes between military aircraft and civilian have been avoided thanks to the military aircraft having UV/IR or superior radar. In specific, I'm talking about commercial aircraft cutting through military airspace (short cut to LAX cutting through the Point Magu test ranges. Pilots think that since there opened for busy periods they should always be open... nope.) Its possible to see other aircraft *far* further away and a computer can easily track hundreds of other aircraft. Then again, my best example was when a civilian plane was given access to a military test range and we learned about a new targeting mode that was active in our software that shouldn't have been... oops. Good in that it worked as designed (but should have been disabled). Bad that it targeted the civilian aircraft.    But we passed this information on to other pilots who were linked into an appropriate network so they could avoid the civilian. (And then flamed the idiot who granted access to any aircraft onto a live weapons test range... but that is another story.) There would have been no Embraer crash into a 737 if both pilots had multi-sprum heads up displays.

With those cameras, we can see for tens of miles clearly (lower resolution with IR, naturally), than with current commercial HUDs. It becomes too much information for a human.

Quoting Pihero (Reply 36):
I won’t be there to be one of those slaves, so callously I just say “Après moi, le deluge !”

Too dramatic. Its to free time. I would love to be able to kick back on my drive. If there was convenient (add say only 20 minutes each way) mass transit, I would do so. Automated cars will allow me to read a book, text, or do other things that I wish to do. Having the copilot autonomous will be a cost saving feature. It will start as an insurance measure and end up being defacto a la trains.

Part of the reason I believe this is certain cameras are believed to be made commercially available soon thanks to civilian UAVs driving up non-DOD demand.   

Quoting Pihero (Reply 36):
As for UAVs as the precursors to what’s going to happen in airline flying, the least I can say is that I’m certainly not impressed.

Then you haven't looked at the latest UAVs. I bet you're picking the cheap ones that were sloppily done. Everything before block 20 Global Hawks is   . The science has improved dramatically since 2008 (the various customers needed new functionality and the changes are night and day)! UCAS alone moved the whole experience forward a decade and that program is in its infancy. UCLASS not only brings UAVs to a new level, it has a 15 year 'crawl, walk, run' methodology that will see UAVs improve more in the next 15 years than computers did 1980 to 1995.

Let's put it another way, would you use a computer from the 1980s even the late 1980s? Right now the 777 flies on that 1989 era CPU. Right now all the commercial autonomy is based off leasons learned from the 777. Its a great airplane, but seriously, software was held for hardware until a few years ago which allowed the explosion of military UAV technology thanks to the PPC 7410 processor (which are de-clocked due to their heat). Today one wouldn't bother certifying a chip that slow. Commercial UAVs will all use cell phone derived chips which are far faster. The new 2.3 Ghz chips in smart phones would be the minimum with quad and octo cores instead of single cores.

Try to even web browse a.net on a 486... you couldn't do it. That is what commercial aircraft fly on today. But new kit is in the labs and even flying (if you know where to look).

I have no doubt a pilot's job is a skilled job. But remember it wasn't the mob who were the Luddites, it was the skilled professionals who were replaced by process and mechanization that created that famous rebellion. Instead of debating, celibrate the safety.

Planemaker and I are agreeing on this... That should tell you something. Hint, we normally have pretty entertaining debates on how to best implement technology!    Then again, normally either Planemaker or I is either more enthusiastic about a technology and in general the optimist is right between the two of us and Planemaker is a hair more optimistic on autonomy than I am. Then again, I worked test for UAVs.  

Seriously, UAVs are the "high tech" of aerospace. Its the only area of aersospace where what wasn't possible two years ago is now a given... The deployed UAVs are *nothing* compared to what is in the labs. Its done as little 'upgrades to Block XX software' is reality stripping out all the computers and software and moving forward. That R&D will flow down into commercial aircraft.

The only debate is the time frame. Oh, we'll still have a pilot on larger aircraft. But one with autonomous backup.

Quoting leonardoq (Reply 37):

I hope I am not alive to see this happening.

Working with aviation is not only a privilege but (being a pilot) is of the best professions out there... no matter what happens, sitting in a flight deck is just the most amazing and rewarding experience...

No debate it is a fun and desirable profession, but its also an expensive profession. But I've watched two jobs I loved be automated out of existence. So was my brother's last job. Its why he switched to robots. Think about today's kids and what they'll do. With my daughters, I've made sure to expose them to robots so they will work on the right side of automation. The Metropolis fear has been over-played for too long. Humans will still make the decisions.

Take eye surgery. My Uncle is a great and skilled eye surgeon. His son, with a robot, will perform 4X the surgeries per day with 1/8th the risk thanks to modern tools. Heck, when his son went off to India to perform 2,500 surgeries (required to get US malpractice insurance at reasonable rates) in India, his father thought it was a multi-year assignment. Not something to be completed in less than a year! Do you want to be denied eye surgery because it costs $80k more to be done by hand rather than with automated assistance with the added risk the doctor is having a bad day?

People who want to be hand flown will pay for it. Everyone else will get on the web and pick the cheapest Y fare... No one is ready to completely do away with the pilot. But computers interacting with each other is so much simpler than today's ATC. I've seen what GPS based ATC can do. Just wait... re-routing is so much simpler.

Lightsaber
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planemaker
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:11 am

Quoting lightsaber (Reply 31):
Let us stop looking in the rear view mirror.

When not knowing what is out there, unfortunately it is human nature to look in the "rear view mirror".

Quoting lightsaber (Reply 31):
Current state of the art is the PPC7410.

Just a FYI, early this year a new Epiphany chip should be available with a 64-core coprocessor @ 800 MHz, 2W peak.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 34):
Those would not be sufficient analogies for the FAA. Unmanned passenger drones would need a whole new set of regulations above and beyond those with cargo drones and SP OPS.

They would indeed. The FAA's singular concern with UAVs is collisions and the technology already exists and will get smaller and cheaper.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 34):
We've had robot cars for almost 30 years. The technology isn't new.

No we haven't... name a single car before in the past 30 years that was capable of driving all over California completely autonomously.

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 34):
I'm sure they'll continue to move it along, but it's a long way off from being consumer ready, not to mention the economics of it.

Not so. Already available in trials in Japan. Tesla expects to offer it in 2016. Volvo will start to sell them out of their showrooms in 2017. That is around the corner... not "a long way off".

Quoting FlyPNS1 (Reply 34):
Not in the U.S. they don't.

Yes they do. This is, honestly, pretty basic stuff.

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 35):
People with no actual experience flying an airplane believe it is only a matter of physically controlling the aircraft.

I've been flying since I was 15 and there are many, many other pilots including, perhaps most famously, Professor Missy Cummings at MIT (ex-Navy F/A-18 pilot).  
Quoting FlyHossD (Reply 38):
As I understand the FAA's proposed drone rules, Jeff Bezo's plans will NOT conform to the regulations. That is, he's already struck out before even reaching the batter's box.

Well, first, if the FAA loses the court challenge I mentioned above then there is no issue. Second, the FAA hasn't released yet any proposed rules for PrimeAIr type UAVs. Third, people are already permitted to use UAVs below 400'... but just not for commercial purposes yet.
Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
 
harim
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:17 am

It all boils down to money - the cost of pilots, compared to cost of complete automation, favours having pilots for the near future (the supporting infrastructure and services require investments).

Down the road, there may be an upstart airline that has end-to-end pilot automation - it is still quite far away as the economics don't yet pan out.

However, the ULCC airlines are actively lobbying to reduce to 1 pilot only - it will be a matter of time before the aviation authorities sway to the lobbying and allow 1 pilot (plus automation as a back-up) - this is more likely in the near future.
 
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:42 am

Quoting planemaker (Reply 40):
Well, first, if the FAA loses the court challenge I mentioned above then there is no issue. Second, the FAA hasn't released yet any proposed rules for PrimeAIr type UAVs.

As I understand, no and no. The FAA's proposed rules will require line of sight operations of drones (again, as I understand it). How will Amazon overcome that - follow the drones to the destination? That would effectively defeat the purpose, eh?
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:54 am

Quoting harim (Reply 41):
It all boils down to money - the cost of pilots, compared to cost of complete automation, favours having pilots for the near future (the supporting infrastructure and services require investments).

Indeed it does... as I pointed out earlier, many safety recommedations by the NTSB have not been implemented due to industry lobby groups, on the one hand, and grandfathering of old standards is permitted on the other hand.

Quoting FlyHossD (Reply 42):
As I understand, no and no.

If they lose the court challenge then FAA can't regulate commercial use. It will be an interesting court case. And the FAA has not yet released any proposed ruling for PrimeAir type ops. Their real concern, obviously, is drones in pax plane airspace.
Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
 
Mir
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:31 am

Quoting homsar (Reply 20):
In recent years, how many crashes/fatalities have been avoided by superb piloting skills in the face of never-before-seen circumstances vs. how many have occurred due to pilot error on an otherwise good plane?

It's very difficult to answer that question, because while a crash that occurs due to pilot error certainly makes the news, a crash that doesn't happen by virtue of piloting skills doesn't. You may very well have been on a flight that didn't crash because of the pilot's skill and be none the wiser.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 26):
There will be always these isolated heroic stories but in reality 66 percent of accidents are caused by the flight crew, mostly due to lost of control.

I wonder how many of those accidents had an automation component.

Quoting tim73 (Reply 32):
Which one is actually harder to program, self-driving car or self-flying plane?

Not the right question to ask, because what's important is the reliability of the programming, which has to be significantly higher in an airplane than in a car.

-Mir
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NAV20
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:01 am

Quoting harim (Reply 41):
It all boils down to money - the cost of pilots, compared to cost of complete automation, favours having pilots for the near future (the supporting infrastructure and services require investments).

Good point. 'Pleased' to say that I'm unlikely to live long enough to see 'crew-less airliners' enter service, but one thing that nags at me is the question of alternates?

Every airport in the world - including alternates along all the routes - would have to be equipped with full ILS etc.? Plus, presumably, automated taxiing and take-off technology as well? And they would all have to be manned on a 24-hour basis by technicians with equal (or arguably better?) skills than current pilots? Most of whom would be just sitting around 'monitoring,' waiting for something to go wrong, for the vast majority of the time?

Just can't see any way in which 'full automation' would even be economically possible, leave alone the issue of 'customer resistance'?
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EA CO AS
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:08 am

Quoting lightsaber (Reply 31):
Quoting EA CO AS (Reply 9):So do trains, yet the VAST majority of passenger and freight trains are manned, and we've had powered trains far longer than powered aircraft.
Trains are the perfect example! Look how much more efficient they are. Once upon a time one would have an engineer, assistant engineer, a stoker, and a fireman (or two) then at there would be 3 to 5 breakmen. Eventually it went to two engineers and one breakman in the caboose. Now it is one engineer (a 2nd if a trainee) for the train and many subways have remote control (no human).

And we've gone from 3 man flight decks to 2 man ones. But the margin of error and survivability factors for an aircraft accident are vastly different than those for commercial trains.

Trains are the perfect example because once again we STILL haven't gone to unmanned passenger trains, save for the occasional inter-terminal shuttle at various airports. Even most light-rail is manned, and all heavy rail I know of is.

In my personal and professional opinion, commercial aircraft simply won't go unmanned in our lifetimes.
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maxpower1954
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:11 am

Quoting planemaker (Reply 40):
I've been flying since I was 15 and there are many, many other pilots including, perhaps most famously, Professor Missy Cummings at MIT (ex-Navy F/A-18 pilot).  
OK, I didn't know. I've been one since I was 16.

But have you ever been a professional pilot, operating under almost all weather conditions into some of the busiest airspace in the world? I'm not trying to belittle your experience, because you didn't say, but there is a huge difference between my 1957 Cessna 172 and the A321 they pay me to fly. And I'm not talking about big airplane versus little one; it's the complexity of the operation and the constant decision making that goes with the territory. I had a trip going into DCA last month thought was the busiest I've had in years. The weather went from light freezing rain which we can land in to freezing rain - which we can't. So we went around from under 1,000 feet and held for over an hour. We had enough fuel to do this because I had a conference with the dispatcher before departure and insisted we bring the fuel load up to max landing weight. We ended up returning to our departure airport because the weather didn't improve - until we started back. 10 minutes later dispatch called and said the weather had changed to light freezing rain. I knew better than to turn around, because if the weather went to freezing rain again we would now be fuel critical diverting to the alternate. Which is exactly what happened. My experience and judgement isn't replaceable for the forseeble future meaning 20 -30 years at least down the road. Someday - probably. You'll also have the option of ordering a Stepford wife.

I Googled Missy Cummings, and didn't find her wanting to replace the pilot in a commercial operation. Here's a quote:

"Q. You work at the interface of humans and robots, but is the real goal to make the people unnecessary?

A. I’m not trying to take automation and replace humans. My research is how to develop collaborative systems so that automation is enabling people to do their jobs better."

And I totally agree with this. The Airbus I fly today was a major advance in the state of the art which I embraced, and I got my start flying DC-3s - you don't get more old school than that.

This has been a subject that has been discussed longer than many of you think. One of the original "Star Trek" episodes from 1968 was called "The Ultimate Computer". Captain Kirk was replaced by a computer called "M5" for an operational test to see if it could do the job of captain and crew. During the initial war games, M5 performed flawlessly, better and more efficiently than any human. The Starfleet admiral even referred to Kirk as "Captain Dunsel" - slang for a useless part that is no longer required. But then upon encountering an unmanned freighter that didn't respond to M5's calls, it destroyed the ship because it couldn't make a value based judgement based on partial or incomplete information.

I'm such a nerd to remember this!

[Edited 2014-01-01 19:15:36]

[Edited 2014-01-01 19:20:18]
 
FlyHossD
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:27 am

Quoting planemaker (Reply 43):
If they lose the court challenge then FAA can't regulate commercial use. It will be an interesting court case. And the FAA has not yet released any proposed ruling for PrimeAir type ops. Their real concern, obviously, is drones in pax plane airspace.

Is there some reason why these proposed regulations (see page 33, 34, etc.) wouldn't apply to a "PrimeAir" type of operation:

http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/media/uas_roadmap_2013.pdf
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lightsaber
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RE: Flight Global: When Will We Drop The Pilot?

Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:25 am

Quoting EA CO AS (Reply 46):
And we've gone from 3 man flight decks to 2 man ones. But the margin of error and survivability factors for an aircraft accident are vastly different than those for commercial trains.

Trains are the perfect example because once again we STILL haven't gone to unmanned passenger trains, save for the occasional inter-terminal shuttle at various airports.

But they did go to one operator which is what I'm arguing. You're arguing if we're ready for Grade 4 automation. I'm stating we're ready for Grade 2 or even 3.

Its much simpler going to Grade 2 or 3 automation than grade 4 (full autonomous).

And I've been on unmanned trains that don't cross other lines... its more common than what you suggest.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_driverless_trains

That incomplete list has 55 grade 4 train systems listed. Quite a bit more than 'occasional.'

Quoting EA CO AS (Reply 46):
In my personal and professional opinion, commercial aircraft simply won't go unmanned in our lifetimes.

So you're not participating in NASA's April (2014) challenge?
http://www.nasa.gov/press/2013/septe...pi-unmanned-aircraft/#.UsTkJIuzKpg

This will be like the DARPA robotic challenges. What is laughed at as not achieved in one year is easily met two years later.

The technology is being worked. Heck, college kids participate a la the SAE races:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Aerial_Robotics_Competition

The milestones are being met far faster than pundits have predicted:"Three years later in 1995 a team from Stanford University was able to acquire a single disk and move it from one side of the arena to the other in a fully autonomous flight%u2014half a decade earlier than some pundits had predicted."

Every one of their scenarios was considered impossible, but eventually college teams meat and beat the challenges.

And the FAA just approved the UAS test cites:
http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/
http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsid=15576
These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical research into the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.

That press release is but two days old!

Quoting harim (Reply 41):
It all boils down to money - the cost of pilots, compared to cost of complete automation,

That is correct, but the cost of autonomous flying is dropping quickly.

Quoting planemaker (Reply 40):
Just a FYI, early this year a new Epiphany chip should be available with a 64-core coprocessor @ 800 MHz, 2W peak.

I feel as if I blink I'm missing a major development. That level of performance at 2W is amazing not just as noted in your link for Robotic applications, but also for aerospace.    And that chip is being made at 28nm... Imagine what could be designed with Fin-Fet transistors (common by 14nm production).   

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