Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Technology

Can Unmanned Aircraft Mix With Commercial Planes? 203

Posted by samzenpus
from the fly-the-robotic-skies dept.
coondoggie writes "The Federal Aviation Administration this week signed a research and development agreement with GE Aviation to come up with a way to safely mix the burgeoning amounts of unmanned aircraft with commercial aviation. With this research the FAA and GE hope to accomplish an aviation first by completing the research to facilitate flight of an Unmanned Aircraft System with an FAA certified, trajectory-based flight management system. Integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace will be no easy task. The Government Accountability Office last year laid out the difficulties stating that routine unmanned aircraft access to national airspace poses technological, regulatory, workload, and coordination challenges."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can Unmanned Aircraft Mix With Commercial Planes?

Comments Filter:
  • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RobVB (1566105) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:21PM (#29045463)
    I like the comforting feeling of knowing there's a pilot in the cockpit.
    • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:24PM (#29045511) Journal

      I like the comforting feeling of knowing there's a pilot in the cockpit.

      I like the comforting feeling of knowing there's a pilot in the cockpit of the planes flying OVER me when I'm down here on the ground.

    • Re:No. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:31PM (#29045579) Homepage Journal

      I like the comforting feeling of knowing there's a pilot in the cockpit.

      Computers don't get heart attacks or fall asleep at the stick.

      • They also aren't particularly innovative or creative, nor can they defend themselves terribly easily...
      • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by qwijibo (101731) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:43PM (#29045709)

        Do aircraft have fully autonomous co-computers that can recognize an unexpected fault and take full control of the plane? That's why commercial aircraft have co-pilots. A secondary system running the same code with the same flaws as the first doesn't cut it in this context.

        • I'm only speaking second hand, but I thought most flight control systems we're triple buffered with redundant, reimplemented systems to avoid this.

          • Re:No. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by cyphergirl (186872) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:25PM (#29046577) Homepage Journal

            I spent a brief part of my career writing code for avionics. A serious amount of testing goes into the code before the FAA will certify it to fly; you have to prove that you've executed every line of code, that every line of code does exactly what it is supposed to, and that there are no paths that are never executed. But even with all of the testing we did, we would occasionally get a value we completely didn't expect and crash the demo box. Lucky me, I was just writing code to encrypt ACARS... nothing that actually made the airplane fly (or not fly...).

            My husband and I were at AirVenture checking out EFIS sytems for an experimental aircraft that we're building. We managed to crash one of them not once, but three times, just by pushing a few buttons in rapid sequence. Granted, they were experimental and didn't go through all of the testing, but every now and then you also hear about a certified system resetting in flight. In fact, a friend of ours recently had his certified EFIS go into a reboot loop while he was in flight due to a faulty database update; luckily he was flying VFR and had backup gauges, so he didn't need the EFIS. There are procedures in place to handle this, but there are also people present in the cockpit to follow them. This is why fly-by-wire scares me, and why it's still a Very Good Thing that commercial aircraft have co-pilots and manual flight systems as backups. There's just too much that can go wrong to be able to trust everything to fly itself -- sometimes you really need a human in the mix thinking "outside of the box" when the feathers start to fly. I think the Sioux City incident is a major example of that, despite how long ago it was.

            • Sioux City is remarkable in that the solution was thought of during the event. Pilots train so that emergency procedures are reflex, so most of the time you don't get something like that. In fact, I'm aware of only two events where new doctrine was invented during the event to deal solve a mechanical problem in an aircraft. Sioux City and Apollo 13.

              But.. in the sioux city case, a good computer could have that doctrine programmed in (if a programmer thought of it) and a really good computer would have dis

              • Re:No. (Score:4, Interesting)

                by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @06:26AM (#29049483)
                If you read the Wiki page on Sioux City flight 232 you'll see that the issue has occurred several times with the crew finding the same solution each time. However on only one occasion has a plane suffered the same catastrophic failure and landed successfully which was the 2003 DHL A320 that lost all hydrolics when it was struck by a misile shortly after taking off from Baghdad Airport.
            • by russ1337 (938915)
              My current role is verifying compliance of DO-178B artefact's... I hear you.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by AnyoneEB (574727)

          A secondary system running the same code with the same flaws as the first doesn't cut it in this context.

          That's why you build the computer systems with triple modular redundancy [wikipedia.org]. Basically, you make three different systems which have the same job and they vote.

          Of course, a human or two as another layer of redundancy is often a good idea.

        • Re:No. (Score:4, Informative)

          by russ1337 (938915) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @02:18AM (#29048237)
          The FAA approach to aircraft software is loosely as follows (refer FAR 25.1309 as a starting point):

          - When building the aircraft, as part of a wider safety program a System Safety Assessment is carried out on the system in question - This may be in accordance with SAE ARP 4754 [wikipedia.org]

          - The SSA determines the required 'Design Assurance Level' of the system in question. - i.e a 'fly-by-wire' flight control is likely level A, and an inflight entertainment system might be level E.

          - The system is then built, and the software developed using a suitable software lifecycle process (such as IEEE 12207).

          - The Software is developed against an 'Assurance Standard' - most likely DO-178B [wikipedia.org]. This requires various things to happen depending on the 'Level' of assurance required. If it is level A software (i.e for a flight control system), then there are lots of development and test requirements required (e.g full high-level requirement trace to low level requirements to hardware, with independence. - and full code coverage with testing of all inputs and outputs in every iteration). For something like an in flight entertainment (Level E), there are very little code / test requirements (to meet FAA regs - not passenger satisfaction!)

          The FAA credit the (quite robust when followed) DO-178B process as the reason for so few software related accidents. Many examples of aircraft accidents the media attribute to 'software fault' is usually a hardware error providing incorrect input. - or a result of poor requirement definition up front.... (such as software had no requirement to disregard erroneous Angle of Attack data, causing severe pitch problems in an airbus.)

          If you get into it, the FAA regulations around software are pretty safe. If you're in doubt, contact your local D.E.R. [wikipedia.org]
      • I like the comforting feeling of knowing there's a pilot in the cockpit.

        Computers don't get heart attacks or fall asleep at the stick.

        They have their own failure modes. One issue is that modern commercial aircraft are subject to similar failure modes even when piloted by a human being.

      • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Deadstick (535032) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:22PM (#29046071)
        Computers don't get heart attacks or fall asleep at the stick.

        Or figure out how to make a successful landing in a river when the engines fill up with birds...

        rj

        • by cyn1c77 (928549)

          Computers don't get heart attacks or fall asleep at the stick.

          Or figure out how to make a successful landing in a river when the engines fill up with birds...

          rj

          I like how everyone is quoting the few times that human pilots have saved airplanes from crashing. What about the thousands of times that human pilots have made a poor decision and crashed or destroyed their plane? Examples include landing/taking off on the wrong runway, sleeping or not paying attention at the stick, forgetting to follow the checklist, making the poor decision in an emergency situation, giving in to terrorist threats... etc.

          Properly programmed computers will always be able to process an

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by bschorr (1316501)
        Sure, computers are completely reliable and never fai#&#(@(@ NO CARRIER
      • by gapagos (1264716)

        That's true. They just end up with a BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH.
        So much more reassuring.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Computers are of course much more reactive to the most minor disturbances. A single neutrino passing through a transistor can alter it's state. One bit out in a calculate and like a house of cards, the whole other millions of lines of code falls down. Computers are terribly fragile and unlike missiles, fire once and it either works or not (many many failures have been recorded) unmaned aircraft will start running up tens thousands of hours of airtime and thousands of flights, all waiting for that inevitabl

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Wrong. You're simply scared of change. In 50 years time you WILL hear many people saying "Holy shit, they let PEOPLE fly these planes? I feel much safer without a human pilot."
    • Re:No. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Jake73 (306340) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:05PM (#29045925) Homepage

      You haven't met enough pilots.

    • Re:No. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:11PM (#29045973) Homepage

      You: "No. I like the comforting feeling of knowing there's a pilot in the cockpit."

      TFA: "Because unmanned aircraft have never routinely operated in the national airspace system, the level of public acceptance is unknown. One researcher observed that as unmanned aircraft expand into the non-defense sector, there will inevitably be public debate over the need for and motives behind such proliferation."

      Looks like your attitude is one of the things they'll be studying, hmm?

      • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jamstar7 (694492) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:35PM (#29046183)

        TFA: "Because unmanned aircraft have never routinely operated in the national airspace system, the level of public acceptance is unknown. One researcher observed that as unmanned aircraft expand into the non-defense sector, there will inevitably be public debate over the need for and motives behind such proliferation."

        I'm wondering why there's a need for drones to interfly commercial airspace here in the US, especially when that blog also had an article about the Air Force wanting to give drones enough machine intelligence [networkworld.com] to decide for itself whether deadly force is warranted. What could possibly go wrong [ctrlaltdel-online.com] with that? Are the new drones gonna be used in the much-publicised 'War' On Drugs or something?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          GIS data collection such as aerial surveying like the "Bird's Eye View" on Bing or 7cm or smaller resolution for overhead views, high resolutions that satellites can't achieve. They also would have the ability to collect when their is cloud cover as drones can fly under the cloud cover. Throw the GPS coordinates on to an SD card with something like Ardupilot and have it fly the route taking images that can then be stitched together. GE as a huge defense contractor would primarily just want to sell them for
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Obfuscant (592200)
            Why we need full size UAVs when radio control UAVs can accomplish anything you'd sanely want accomplish without a human at the controls is beyond me.

            Radio control suffers from the same issue as fully automated UAVs.

            The issue with them being in the airspace system is that much of the system is based on VFR -- visual flight rules. See and avoid. And even the parts that are always ATC controlled (Class A and B airspace) rely on see and avoid when the weather is clear. (It is not uncommon at all for an airpl

            • Please let me know when a full size plane is planning on flying at an altitude of 100 feet with a velocity of a few meters per second like a Multiplex Cularis UAV can, a fully foam airframe with a mass of a few kilograms with full gear. I'd like to be a long ways away.
              • by Obfuscant (592200)
                Please let me know when a full size plane is planning on flying at an altitude of 100 feet with a velocity of a few meters per second...

                You mean like nap-of-the-earth flying practiced by military pilots in their jets? I don't know if they go as fast as "a few meters per second", but I hear they go a couple hundred miles per hour. I also hear it is quite an awesome sight to have a few scream by 100 feet overhead, and considering how few prang while doing this it sounds like it's safe to be on the ground un

                • I'm complaining that FAA severe regulations [diydrones.com] for radio control UAVs are absolutely stupid.
                • Just pointing one thing out: Military guys train to do that shit. Beyond the experience of the controller, we also have something interesting going on right now: we hardly have working cars that drive themselves. Those are moving in two dimensions. Do you really think it's a good idea to throw up a bunch of UAV's in crowded space so soon?
                  • we hardly have working cars that drive themselves. Those are moving in two dimensions.

                    But those encounter far more obstacles and terrain variance than one is likely to find in the atmosphere.

                • by jamstar7 (694492)

                  You mean like nap-of-the-earth flying practiced by military pilots in their jets? I don't know if they go as fast as "a few meters per second", but I hear they go a couple hundred miles per hour. I also hear it is quite an awesome sight to have a few scream by 100 feet overhead, and considering how few prang while doing this it sounds like it's safe to be on the ground underneath.

                  You mean, as slow as a few meters per second. 3 meters per sec is only 10.8km/hr. You could jog faster than that. Now for a fu

            • Airspaces Class A through D are always controlled. If you're a pilot in Class D airspace around a small airport, you must have radio contact unless your radio is out, and even then you're expected to follow light gun signals unless you absolutely cannot do so. If you're coming into a very busy airport (Class B), you're not likely to be told to follow someone in. TraCon or the tower (depending on exact location) will provide separation, calling for altitudes and airspeeds.

              A pilot of a UAV could be provide

        • by Dare nMc (468959)

          Are the new drones gonna be used in the much-publicised 'War' On Drugs or something?

          They have been using drones for at least 6 years for this already on US soil (AZ, TX, NM), one of them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elbit_Hermes_450 [wikipedia.org] is big enough to cause troubles already, but smaller ones seam more common.

          Granted these are all backed up by human pilots ready to take over. And are small enough/slow enough/in low population density areas, that it is unlikely to cause deaths, assuming they don't interact with something bigger first.
          Also I assume no large airport interactions are required

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          Are the new drones gonna be used in the much-publicised 'War' On Drugs or something?

          There's a war on drugs in my apartment right now. And I am winning

    • by antirelic (1030688) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:13PM (#29045993) Journal

      I'm up in the air about this one. The US military is probably one of the biggest consumers of unmanned air craft, and has been using them extensively for quiet some time in Afghanistan. For the most part, the highlights scream "success", but I dont really trust the news for two reasons. One, the media is untrustworthy. Two, the military does not benefit by releasing news of drone failures (opsec issue and all, for those crazy left wing anti military whack jobs make of it what you will).

      I'd be more inclined to support this if the military released unclassified reports on all of its unmanned UAV activities. Yes, UAV is not nearly the same as "commercial airliner" but its a good step in the right direction. The military can probably provide mountains of information on the outcome of thousands upon thousands of flights and all sorts of variable problems they have encountered (from mechanical to signal). This will be another area where military tech and military experience directly and dramatically impacts commercial applications of new technology.

      Unmanned flight is going to happen. Not if, but when. This will occur with commercial cargo transports first (FedEx, UPS, etc), where saving money on "human support systems" will go a long way to reduce costs, improve route times, increase the amount of flights to be made, etc.. It only makes sense.

      • There are numerous documented crashes of the Predator drones. I believe the main cause of them, however, is operator error and not a faulty autonomous system. The controls are supposed to be really difficult and I have heard that the system sometimes randomly reboots midflight. http://www.google.com/search?q=predator+crash [google.com]
  • Where's the issue? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ryukotsusei (1164453) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:24PM (#29045501)
    I don't see the problem in this. As long as you give the aircraft a simple AI (planes practically fly themselves anyway), and a pre-set route, they should be fairly predictable. A simple in-the-air navigation system for collision avoidance and you're set.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:38PM (#29045657) Homepage

      I don't see the problem in this. As long as you give the aircraft a simple AI (planes practically fly themselves anyway), and a pre-set route, they should be fairly predictable. A simple in-the-air navigation system for collision avoidance and you're set.

      But OTHER aircraft might not be so predictable. TFA mentions, for example, gliders. They don't file flight plans. They're too small to carry much in the way of radar or other collision avoidance devices. Both UAVs and gliders tend to fly at low altitudes. Traffic can get very complex, very fast.

      Besides, there is no such thing as a "simple" collision avoidance system. They're hard to do (mentioned, oddly enough, in TFA).

      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:49PM (#29045789) Homepage Journal

        My dad flies gliders and glider tug aircraft. One of the problems he told me about is that military pilots like to fly along a rail line close to an airfield where the gliders fly. They don't care that they are cutting through the circuit for an airfield. UAVs would at least follow instructions when transiting through these areas.

      • by Deadstick (535032)
        Both UAVs and gliders tend to fly at low altitudes

        Snrk... http://preview.tinyurl.com/obgg5l [tinyurl.com]

        rj

      • So wouldn't it make sense to simply require "all unmanned aircraft must fly at X altitude (10k feet?) unless within X distance of a landing strip."

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by stinkytoe (955163)

        UAV's also have weight issues. The shadow, the one mentioned in the article, doesn't have any kind of radar, heck it doesn't even have brakes. This is due to the very reliable but fairly weak engine it uses. It's internal computer basically only handles the inertial nav system, the communications, and maintains straight and level flight. The ground control station makes all the actual decisions. If the AV loses contact with the GCS, it's preprogrammed either to return to a predesignated coordinate and fly a

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nmg196 (184961)

        The problem with gliders is that they like to fly extremely close to each other in thermals [texassoaring.org]. If you fitted any kind of collision avoidance system, it would be going off permanently.

      • Just a point of reference--

        • UAV - Predator [wikipedia.org] Max Alt: 25,000 ft
        • Commercial - 737 [wikipedia.org] Max Alt: 35,000-41,000 ft
        • Glider - Sailplane [wikipedia.org], RV-10 [vansaircraft.com]. Assuming gliders get pulled behind a smaller aircraft, we're looking at cruise height around 8,000 ft.

        Looks to me like the biggest concern is really about cruise height in open spaces, and about regulation of the different aircraft in populated areas. Given that all commercial aircraft have flight paths, the problem gets to be a little less intense since we know where the big

    • Aircraft + AI == no...
      Give the unmanned aircraft predictable behavior (i.e. it doesn't "change"), and provide the human driven aircraft with the proper information to react (actionable data from the unmanned craft) and then they can co-exists.
      Allow an unmanned aircraft to "figure it out" and react at the same time with a manned craft is putting the manned aircraft's possibly of an unknown consequence at the top of priority queue.
      • by rm999 (775449)

        He said *simple* AI. I used to work on a large military UAV project - our "AI" was basically a robust straight-line path planning algorithm. Most of the time, it was just a series of way-points that the plane touches.

        The most complex part of the whole thing is landing, and I would assume the most accident-prone. I hope unmanned airplanes would have some added safety requirements until their landing is shown to be safe (perhaps their own runways, or a rule that they must land on empty runways in low populati

        • Don't they already use autoland systems to land commercial airliners in zero visibility conditions?

    • huh? are you serious? and +5 Insightful? wtf is wrong here! where is the whatcouldpossiblegowrong when you need it?

      I wonder what your AI will do in situations like: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/01/15/new.york.plane.crash/index.html [cnn.com]

      Not so simple now is it?
  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:26PM (#29045529)
    Some how I think the technological aspects will be the least burdensome to implement...
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I think liability insurance is going to be a bigger problem than any union.
      Even with triple redundant auto-takeoff/pilot/land systems, we still have humans in the loop.

  • Auto Pilot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakin020 (980931) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:30PM (#29045573)

    Heck with the way things are now, the Auto Pilot can nearly land a plane by itself.

    The idea isn't too far off, but to an extent, we already have an "Auto flying" system currently in use.

    • by treat (84622)

      Heck with the way things are now, the Auto Pilot can nearly land a plane by itself.

      The idea isn't too far off, but to an extent, we already have an "Auto flying" system currently in use.

      Nearly land by itself? It's commonly done. The majority of landings for big commercial jets for sure.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google "procerus kesterel" "piccolo cloudcap" "papparazi uav". these can all autoland. we've been flying a kestrel with the ability to consistently hit a 3" circle on the runway with a 100lb plane going 15mph at touchdown. yeah bigger planes go faster, but they have larger control surfaces to compensate...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by EchaniDrgn (1039374)
      Auto landing has been around since the 70s. I remember a full page newspaper ad announcing that "Auto-landing is here." IIRC, in order to be able to prove their Auto-pilot is capable of auto-landing the airlines are required to have periodic auto-landings done. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoland [wikipedia.org]
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Class V autopilots capable of landing a craft are already installed on a couple of the largest airliners, but not all their stops have all the equipment necessary for them to come in on autopilot, and the landings are done by humans anyway. Some miltary aircraft are already quite capable of performing their own landings as well.

    • by bruckie (217355)

      Heck with the way things are now, the Auto Pilot can nearly land a plane by itself.

      Actually, autopilot can land a plane without any human help, and in some cases it's even required to. I was talking to a pilot for United (friend's uncle) a couple years ago, and he said that in high winds or poor visibility, airline regulations prevent the pilot from landing the plan manually. The pilot is required to allow the autopilot to land the plane. Pretty crazy stuff.

      --Bruce

  • ATC... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omega Hacker (6676) <.ten.scagemo. .ta. .agemo.> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:35PM (#29045621)
    I'd love to have them get a proper air-traffic control system in place that can safely handle the load of piloted planes we have, first. Only after that would it be prudent to look at bringing UAVs into the mix.
    • The ATC system we have is generally only stressed in areas where many aircraft congregate - i.e. hubs such as Atlanta, etc. Unmanned aircraft are used from completely different locations. Once airborne in a noncongested area (i.e. not the Hudson Corrider), unmanned aircraft will be a very small percentage of the traffic, and generally at altitudes well above commercial traffic.
  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:46PM (#29045741)
    Baghdad is hands-down the most complicated airspace in the world, with multiple simultaneous UAVs at any given time, plus rotary-wing and fixed-wing assets flying constantly, some which are engaging in real-world operations, like dropping bombs. The deconfliction that needs to be done with assets that are collecting, assets that are targeting, assets picking up or dropping off troops, Iraqi commercial aircraft, VIP aircraft, ad nausem is just mind-boggling. The ATC there does this every day. Why is flying one UAV in the US that big a deal?
    • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:09PM (#29045953)

      The ATC there [Baghdad] does this every day. Why is flying one UAV in the US that big a deal?

      Because if something goes wrong in the USA, the airplanes in question will be landing on US citizens and not Iraqi ones.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oodaloop (1229816)
        If something goes wrong in Iraq, a multi-million dollar platform is lost, US pilots are killed (if it collides with a manned aircraft), and the US has to deal with bad publicity, pressure from Iraqi politicians, recovery of classified equipment in potentially hostile territory, etc. It's not like there are no repercussions if they crash a UAV into something. I understand it's different from flying in the US, but let's not act like theses are problems that no one has ever worked on. I skimmed the article
    • by treat (84622)

      Baghdad is hands-down the most complicated airspace in the world, with multiple simultaneous UAVs at any given time, plus rotary-wing and fixed-wing assets flying constantly, some which are engaging in real-world operations, like dropping bombs. The deconfliction that needs to be done with assets that are collecting, assets that are targeting, assets picking up or dropping off troops, Iraqi commercial aircraft, VIP aircraft, ad nausem is just mind-boggling. The ATC there does this every day. Why is flying one UAV in the US that big a deal?

      I don't think Iraq is significantly infected with NIMBYism.

    • Baghdad is hands-down the most complicated airspace in the world, with multiple simultaneous UAVs at any given time, plus rotary-wing and fixed-wing assets flying constantly, some which are engaging in real-world operations, like dropping bombs. The deconfliction that needs to be done with assets that are collecting, assets that are targeting, assets picking up or dropping off troops, Iraqi commercial aircraft, VIP aircraft, ad nausem is just mind-boggling. The ATC there does this every day. Why is flying one UAV in the US that big a deal?

      Because deaths in Iraq are easier to accept? Or possibly there is more central control of airspace there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by petermgreen (876956)

      The military has a somewhat different attitude to safety than civilian operations. The reason for this is pretty obvious, when one of the major risks is being killed by an enemy stuff that reduces that risk is worthwhile even if it increases other risks.

      The civilian authorities in (reasonablly) peaceful countries OTOH are working from a different standpoint. UAVs are simply an extra risk to them which does not reduce any other risk. That means LOTs of beuracracy and risk assesment before they are approved.

  • by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:58PM (#29045869)
    I tried this once, in a comic book I wrote. It didn't really work so well and several commercial airliners crashed. Oh and a terrorist hacked into one of the drones. I wouldn't recommend following this route unless you are using it as a violent plot device.
  • by lsdi (1585395) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:21PM (#29046061)
    I'm a pilot (A320 rating) and a software developer for a major brazilian airline. Unmaned aircrafts are remote controlled. Airbus and Boeing NG airplanes can, in fact, fly with almost no human intervention. But they only do that with very very specific scenarios and cannot solve any situation that is not predicted. In fact, there is no auto-pilot in the market right now that can keep a plane flying with 26kts+ of wind, it cannot predict the wind movement because it just can't learn how the wind gusts are behaving. 26kts winds are nothing, any private pilot can land a cessna skylane with that situation. IRS systems fail, VOR/NDB usually fail, ILS also. It is NOTuncommon to a pilot land a plane "tech-blind". That's just a simple scenario, there are thousands of situations where learning stuff on the spot is required. There is no computer in the market right now that can predict a wind-shear, thing that barely experienced pilots can. Students try to make a car drive by itself and that thing usually is too slow, unreliable, and just do wrong things. It will take decades of AI development to make a computer actually fly an airplane. Yes, I'm a A320 pilot and software developer, if you are too skeptical I can send my code you can check on ANAC website (FAA-like in brazil).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Renraku (518261)

      Unmanned planes would be easier to do than unmanned cars.

      We already have very good automation software for UAVs that can take off, survey, inspect, and land, mostly unassisted. If assistance is needed, such as to fire weapons, or in the event of an emergency or other engagement, it can be handled by remote by the operator. I'd expect these planes would be similar. Maybe hire some pilots and train them in unmanned systems, to handle emergencies. A human element in the system is about necessary, since it

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Aviation Pete (252403)

        Have the drone pull a 400G turn until there isn't a threat anymore. Worst case scenario, trigger an explosive to blow it out of the sky.

        Who ever rated this nonsense "Insightful"?

        The laws of physics don't change just because there is no pilot in the plane to observe them. Higher performance (= climb and turn rate) come at a price. You CAN design an UAV for higher performance, but then it needs big wings and a large engine.
        Before it can pull 400g, it needs to create lift 400 times it's weight force. And withstand the stresses involved. With current materials and technology, 400g is a pipe dream.

  • sure they can mix! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @08:41PM (#29046231)

    They'll mix in approximately the same way as chocolate and peanut butter in a Reese's peanut butter cup.

    *smash*

    "Hey, you got people parts in my drone!"
    "You got drone parts in my people!"

    Mmmm!

    Unmanned trains? Sure. Planes? Not so much.

    That's not to say that flying planes can't be made vastly easier. NASA's "Highway in the Sky" program is encouraging the development of some pretty nifty stuff. Think about the computer display in the Nostromo from Alien. The view of the flight path the pilot simply keeps it within the optimal path, no problem for most situations. But it's those unusual situations you gotta have the real deal for.

  • Perhaps it is beginning to be time to ask not if aircraft under manual and automatic control ("manned" and "unmanned" to use the terminology of TFA) can commingle, but rather why aircraft need to be manually controlled at all.

    The single safest mode of human locomotion today in terms of injuries per passenger-mile is the elevator ("lift" for those in the UK). Apart from museum pieces and some industrial models, they have been virtually exclusively under automatic control for at least 50 years now. The latest

    • by goodmanj (234846)

      The single safest mode of human locomotion today in terms of injuries per passenger-mile is the elevator ("lift" for those in the UK)...they have been virtually exclusively under automatic control for at least 50 years now.

      If I could build a car or plane that had an exclusive right-of-way that makes it physically impossible for another vehicle or other object to be in its path, and a mechanical safety system which causes it to 100% reliably stop dead in its tracks if there's a mechanical problem, I'd have a

  • This report is in effect equally applicable to that age-old baby boomer consensual hallucination: the flying car. Flying cars will never exist because the term is incorrect. They are not members of the set of Cars, they are members of the set of Private Aircraft. For them to work, they are also most likely members of the subset Autonomous Private Aircraft, because it is absurd to expect traffic similar in size and complexity to that of cars and trucks in the skies above urban areas unless each vehicle can r
  • ...landings are mandatory.

    I want a pilot, or airline official, on the plane that I'm on. Why? Because I want the person who makes the decision about whether or not the plane takes off to have THEIR butt on that plane too. I don't want the decision made in an office building 1,000 miles away by somebody who knows they're going home whether the plane lands wheels up or wheels down.
  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @10:53PM (#29047071)
    Over.

    Southwest Flight 1 0 0 9er to Sun Baked Tower requesting I L S approach, over.

    Sun Baked Tower to Southwest Flight 1 0 0 9er, you are cleared for runway 2 2 Left, maintain altitude 2 5 0 0, at 2 7 5 over.

    Southwest Flight 1 0 0 9er, requesting Short Final to runway 2 2 Right, over.

    Sun Baked Tower to Southwest Flight 1 0 0 9er, that is a negative, there is Light Aircraft using that runway. You are directed to runway 2 2 Left.

    Southwest Flight 1 0 0 9er, that's a negative Tower, I see no Light Aircraft Transponder emissions, am turning Short Final now.

    SOUTHWEST FLIGHT 1 0 0 9ER YOU ARE TURNING INTO LIGHT AIRCRAFT, VEER AWAY, VEER AWAY!!!

    Southwest Flight 1 0 0 9er, wheels on the ground, encountered light turbulence on short final approach.

    SOUTHWEST FLIGHT 1 0 0 9ER YOU HAVE COLLIDED WITH 3 LIGHT AIR CRAFT!!!

    Southwest Flight 1 0 0 9er, I am not experiencing any difficulties, no need to Roll the Crash.
  • I went to a meeting at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley about this last year. There are people who want to fly various types of drones for law enforcement purposes. One of the speakers was from the Sacramento PD, which sometimes uses a helicopter. But the helicopter is expensive to fly and can't stay up long enough. They'd like to fly a small drone with TV cameras when they just need to look around from the air.

    Currently, there's a procedure for requesting airspace for such operations, but it takes months

  • VATSIM [vatsim.net] is a simulated air traffic control environment. It allows users of Microsoft Flight Simulator to connect to a set of Linux servers which simulate worldwide air traffic. There are volunteer ATC controllers, who run a simulator for an ATC position, with a simulated radar screen. The controllers issue clearances and control traffic as in the real world. To the greatest extent possible, real-world procedures are followed. Real-world weather information is used, and everything runs in real time.

    So V

  • The article is about unmanned aircraft, which is not the same thing as autonomous. We're probably talking about vehicles which have a real human pilot, she's just not in the vehicle.

    Given that, there's a pretty simple way to make tower communications work. It requires a little hardware, but not much. (I don't have a solution for the problem of detecting and avoiding other aircraft.)

    The pilot operates his vehicle from a ground station as usual. To deal with air traffic control, he calls the local tower o

  • by professorguy (1108737) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:37PM (#29053959)
    We can argue all day whether the planes are SAFE. I'm sure they can be made safe enough eventually.

    But the important point here is: THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO DEPLOY MILITARY EQUIPMENT AGAINST U.S. CITIZENS ON DOMESTIC SOIL.

    The details of the technology are secondary to this violation of Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. And, again, we can argue about how much of the act is still available to citizens, but the real point is LET'S NOT GIVE UP ANY MORE!

Imitation is the sincerest form of plagarism.

Working...