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FAA Adds a Study On Adding Drones To Commercial Aviation 215

Posted by timothy
from the did-you-pack-this-drone-yourself dept.
coondoggie writes "Facing a number of technical challenges, the Federal Aviation Administration said today it added another research project designed to better understand how unmanned aircraft can be brought safely into the national airspace. The FAA set a two-year research and development agreement with Insitu (an independent subsidiary of Boeing) and the New Jersey Air National Guard that will help FAA scientists to study and better understand unmanned aircraft design, construction, and features. Researchers will also look at the differences in how an air traffic controller would manage an unmanned aircraft vs. a manned aircraft."
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FAA Adds a Study On Adding Drones To Commercial Aviation

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  • Cue Skynet jokes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scareduck (177470) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:18PM (#32514782) Homepage Journal
    Only now they're not quite so goddamn funny.
    • 2001 jokes!

      Tower: AirHAL you are cleared for takeoff.
      AirHAL: I'm sorry Tower, I'm afraid I can't do that.
      • by TrisexualPuppy (976893) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:46PM (#32515144)
        2001 jokes? Let's take this a little more seriously...

        Looks as though someone's been paid off to get the ball rolling. Special interest groups, perhaps? I predict that we'll be seeing a lot of future studies on the subject with the majority being positive to the UAV/drone idea, and within ten years, we'll have UAVs in the skies. Imagine all the cheap police UAVs out patrolling everyone's backyards surveying the nude sunbathers and what's growing back there.
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:37PM (#32515032)

      Only now they're not quite so goddamn funny.

      Considering that the FAA's critical infrastructure still runs on technology that's 30 years old, old mainframes that don't have spare parts, and a lack of qualified workers to direct existing traffic, I don't think Skynet is happening anytime soon.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Only now they're not quite so goddamn funny.

      a.) Terminator was not a cautionary tale.
      b.) There's a huge leap between unmanned drones and what happened in that movie.
      c.) You should be thinking about Enemy of the State, not Terminator.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by somersault (912633)

        Terminator was not a cautionary tale.

        Seemed pretty cautionary to me: don't create powerful networked and potentially evil AIs with access to military killbots and manufacturing facilities.

        It's good advice!

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          Terminator was not a cautionary tale.

          Seemed pretty cautionary to me: don't create powerful networked and potentially evil AIs with access to military killbots and manufacturing facilities.

          It's good advice!

          No kidding. If Terminator was not a cautionary tale, what ever was?

        • Seemed pretty cautionary to me: don't create powerful networked and potentially evil AIs with access to military killbots and manufacturing facilities.

          Except niether of the movies ever once said that. Here's an important question: What made Skynet attack? Was it it's creation? Was it the very fact that it existed? No. It was us trying to kill it. Here's another question: Who was the hero of the second movie? 'Uncle Bob'. Who learned the 'value of human life'? 'Uncle Bob', again. In the original "Director's Cut" ending Judgement Day came and went and there was no nuclear attack. Did the destruction of CyberDyne or 'Uncle Bob's sacrifice make us s

          • I didn't say we should be afraid of technology at all, but if we do develop AI based on human traits, or even non human AI based on a set of rules like Asimov's laws of robotics, we obviously have to be capable what stuff it gets access to as input/output. I've thought for a while that it would be funny to let a learning AI loose on the internet and see what kind of crazy "facts" it knew after browsing all the crazy chats people are having on internet forums.

            • I didn't say we should be afraid of technology at all, but if we do develop AI based on human traits, or even non human AI based on a set of rules like Asimov's laws of robotics, we obviously have to be capable what stuff it gets access to as input/output.

              Right. In other words we should stop being shitheads to each other and NOT rush to build a big weapon. Amazing what scifi movies can teach us!

              • According to the third movie I think Skynet was meant to be more of a defence system than a weapon.. I can't remember though, I usually try to pretend that movie never existed.

                The point is that even if we don't build a weapon per se, we have lots of advanced manufacturing facilities that could be used to build them. Skynet was originally just a computer program that built its own warriors.

                Yes I know it's all just a movie and rather far-fetched, but it's still fun, and not entirely implausible, apart from th

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:20PM (#32514800)

    But..but...why would our government want to spy on its own citizens???

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:24PM (#32514848)

      You're not doing anything wrong, right? You should have nothing to hide.

    • by eln (21727)
      Hell, with modern drones they can even precision bomb us from those things! I bet you won't be cheating on your taxes this year!
    • by Salo2112 (628590) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:27PM (#32514886)

      Eventually, commercial planes will be unpiloted - pilots are expensive. I'm guessing this will be a good test of that eventuality.

      • All planes remotely flown? That would make a "Network Connection Lost" situation quite horrific.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I would never get on an unpiloted aircraft, maintenance would be ignored whenever possible.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sznupi (719324)

          You almost do that already, with large part of most airline flights happening sort of autonomously; and newer airplanes with ability to do basically whole journey without direct control input from human pilots.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Maintenance IS ignored whenever possible. I won't get on any aircraft, piloted or not. Not because of maintenance concerns, but because of how the airline industry treats its customers.

        • I would never get on an unpiloted aircraft, maintenance would be ignored whenever possible.

          The incentives for the for-profit company operating an aircraft to maintain (or to skip maintenance on) it aren't much affected by whether or not they have a pilot on it, all other things (paid cargo, passengers, service crew, for instance) being equal between the two scenarios.

          Of course, those incentives are such that maintenance is frequently ignored whenever the operator thinks they can get away with it even with p

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Deadstick (535032)

        And so will your flying car.

        rj

      • Pilots are also a good final safety net though. I'm not saying that computers can't be trusted with flying a plane, obviously they can be and probably safer than a human pilot as well. But I find it unlikely that pilots will be out of the cockpit anytime soon, you just can't program a computer to handle every possible emergency. Would an autopilot have been able to control and land the Gimli Glider? Even assuming that designs were changed to ensure continuous power in that situation, I doubt the autopil

        • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @04:29PM (#32515680)

          If we had a current generation of Sully Sullenberger pilots, I'd agree with you.

          However, he made the correct point that most pilots are not given the training they need to perform as he did. I'd take a computer over a human that overrides the airplane & causes it to crash. See Flight 3407 [wikipedia.org]

      • by sznupi (719324)

        More specifically, expensive if you want them to be damn good - still large portion of airplane crashes is due to human error; some are even because humans tried to "fight" the machine, essentialy.

        • still large portion of airplane crashes is due to human error; some are even because humans tried to "fight" the machine, essentialy.

          That's because Airbus believes that it's safer for the fly-by-wire system to override the pilot when they try to do something they typically shouldn't. Which works great, except for when it doesn't. From what I understand, from pilots that fly Airbus planes, there is the possibility to override the computer. I guess when we hear about it, it's because pilots got in a situation that requires them to disable this feature but forgot. Then instinctively expected the plane to fly they way they think it should ha

      • How so? It certainly isn't reflected in their salaries. Maybe a few of the senior pilots make some good money, but the younger ones tend to earn a wage that well... frankly I'm surprised more of them don't point the nose to ground after realizing that the pilot lifestyle isn't nearly as fantastic as it was made out to be.

        • by Dan Ost (415913)

          Like any union structure, your value is determined by how long you've been around. I know several retired pilots who make better money than some of the doctors I know.

          I also know a couple of new pilots who have a really rough deal...

      • Eventually, commercial planes will be unpiloted - pilots are expensive. I'm guessing this will be a good test of that eventuality.

        The day that happens, I'll just fucking walk it! Besides, a good cross country walk-about is good for the soul.

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        pilots are expensive.

        Actually, most pilots make less than teachers. Its only on large commercial carriers with significant seniority, where passengers are involved, do pilots draw significant salaries. Many pilots are lucky to be able to afford to by a ten year old car. That's why pilots loath to give up their seniority and/or benefits - because they've earned it with many shitty hours and poor pay.

      • by fructose (948996)

        Honestly, that's highly unlikely. First of all, you have to get past the feeling that we need a person up front to make sure everything works right. After all, what if the plane has a malfunction, the computer can't correct it right, a human knows how to solve it, but the communication link is down? All those events have happened, but not necessiarly together, and admittedly the chance of that happening is so slim you may have a better chance of winning the lottery. But you know what? People still win

      • Eventually, commercial planes will be unpiloted - pilots are expensive.

        Eventually, commercial planes will be unpassengered -- tickets are expensive, and getting more expensive (including various fees and non-financial costs such as time and hassle associated with security) faster than pilots are.

    • But..but...why would our government want to spy on its own citizens???

      If this happens, they can spy on me, but I can also launch a drone and spy on them. And to be truthful, the government and it's employees have a hell of a lot more to hide from me than I do from them...
      • by BobMcD (601576)

        But..but...why would our government want to spy on its own citizens???

        If this happens, they can spy on me, but I can also launch a drone and spy on them. And to be truthful, the government and it's employees have a hell of a lot more to hide from me than I do from them...

        How do you figure on getting parity out of this power, when no such other parity has ever existed? It isn't as if you're allowed to drive a tank to work every day, are you?

        • It isn't as if you're allowed to drive a tank to work every day, are you?

          Choose your own snarky response!

          1) I dunno, one of my first cars was a 70-something Lebaron, and that thing was DEFINITELY a tank!

          2) Have you ever ridden in a Hummer?

          3) Well, you can [dailymail.co.uk] in England [tanklimo.com]... :)

          Sorry, couldn't resist. But I actually do agree with you, I think...

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Well it is no more spying than a cop with a radar gun.
      The Police have used aircraft for traffic enforcement and other activities for years. Then you have the potental commercial use for drones. Everything from crop dusting, news gathering, pipeline and power survey flights...
      Even things like pollution monitoring flights fisheries management.
      Right now there are lots of jobs that are done by light aircraft and helicopters that could be done with drones.
      They could even be used for forest fire monitoring.

      Lots

  • by professorguy (1108737) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:20PM (#32514806)
    "Why are you so against this military hardware used against our enemies? It's not like the government will be flying these things over its own citizens."

    Fast forward a few years....
  • My first thoughts revolved around wondering what on earth one of those drones would be doing here.

    But then I tried to think about it from an tech perspective and laid down my tin foil hat. There could actually be some really neat applications for unmmaned aircraft. Granted it's kind of crappy for the pilots in an already saturated market - but there could be some advantages.

    • Re:First thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ArsonSmith (13997) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:29PM (#32514924) Journal

      UPS and FedEx and other air cargo type things I could see as a huge advantage.

      Eventually refining the confidence and quality of the AI to the point where it could haul actual passengers. I'd bet that they mean time between failures of machines could out pace that of human error fairly quickly so it'd actually be safer.

      Remember the Elevator had the same type of history. There was a time when an attendant was there to push the button for you as a way to reassure everyone that it was safe. Eventually people learned they could push the button on their own.

      • by e2d2 (115622)

        I think this will also help ease the traditional pilot's mind, if someone has to supervise the computer well then who better than an experienced pilot? Except now he can fly 3-4 aircraft at once from the ground. It's not as exciting I'll admit, flying is damn fun to some of us, but the bottom line is cost.

        • by Dan Ost (415913)

          Whoa, the airwaves are already crowded enough. Now you want them to carve out enough spectrum to get all the information needed to fly the plane remotely?

      • Re:First thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @04:24PM (#32515606) Journal

        So, do you think Sully would have pulled off a perfect water landing if he had been miles away from the cockpit? If the pilot's life isn't at risk, I just don't think he's going to have the same drive to handle an emergency. He's not going to have all the visual, auditory, and tactile, information a human in the pilot's seat is going to have either. Sometimes you need the reflexes of a well trained human being whose life is on the line.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          So, do you think Sully would have pulled off a perfect water landing if he had been miles away from the cockpit?

          I don't see why not. I don't know if I'd be under any more or less stress to handle an emergency if my life is on the line or if its hundreds of passengers.

          And essentially, some of the mistakes that might cause emergencies will be reduced by a drone that doesn't forget things. And for the record, no human has ever had faster REFLEXES than a modern computer, we've just had the gift of INSIGHT. The only reason we can outsmart a computer in various fields is being able to do what it does not expect. Usually a

          • The problem with your argument of computers vs. pilots is that for the foreseeable future, human beings have a huge edge in the realm of creative thinking. There are numerous example of an emergency causing some type of failure that was not covered in training or procedures but where the pilots in the cockpit were able to devise a procedure that brought them to a successful outcome. The Gimli Glider is one example. Another example was the MD-11 (IIRC) that blew all of the hydraulic flight controls, but t
            • Ah - so why then would a remote control not be sufficient in any of those cases?

              It seems you could have a small handful of pilots on staff to handle the difficult situations, while most of the system is automated.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Krahar (1655029)
          This could be much safer, actually. Granted, something like choosing the best place for a crash landing may not be the kind of thing you could so easily program, since it would require information such as where there were likely to be people, what the ground seems to be made of and such. You can't very easily pre-program this since you don't know where a plane is going to be needing to make an emergency landing. On the other hand, you can have this sort of thing raise a flag in a remote location. There you
        • If the pilot's life isn't at risk, I just don't think he's going to have the same drive to handle an emergency.

          During my emergency medical career, my life was rarely at risk, but I didn't feel any lack of drive to try to save other people's lives. And on the rare occasions when I was as much at risk as my patients, it made it a lot harder to do my job. I see no reason to assume that it would be any different for a pilot in the cockpit vs. sitting at a remote control unit miles away. Your point about sensory feedback makes sense, but it's orthogonal to the odd idea that pilots will perform better when they're abou

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Would a drone using forward looking infrared even have hit the geese in the first place though?

      • by Zerth (26112)

        Heck with cargo planes, I want drones taking packages directly from the nearest depot to my doorstep.

        Can't be any worse than the beating they give my packages already and they might abort due to rain instead of leaving them to soak 6" away from my porch.

  • Key Points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by e2d2 (115622) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:28PM (#32514904)

    A few important points about this:

    1. They are not talking about autonomous UAVs. These UAVs are essentially remote-controlled aircraft piloted by real pilots. I think some people assume these things think for themselves but that's not the case. Now that doesn't automatically discount concerns of safety, but "skynet" is not the case here.

    2. This is not specifically for military only. Many uses for UAVs exist outside of military applications such as basic transport. Of course they'll use them for surveillance, but they already do that with aircraft. UAVs can simply linger longer because one pilot can take over during flight. Similar to how large aircraft do it now with redundant crew members.

    • They are not talking about autonomous UAVs. These UAVs are essentially remote-controlled aircraft piloted by real pilots. I think some people assume these things think for themselves but that's not the case. Now that doesn't automatically discount concerns of safety, but "skynet" is not the case here.

      Yes, but there was a time that we as a society wouldn't have even considered this. The main obvious use is domestic spying.

      This is not specifically for military only. Many uses for UAVs exist outside of military applications such as basic transport.

      Just what we need: remote controlled heavies tooling around the sky... Sure, commercial aircraft are almost there (take-offs and landings are largely automated), but there are so many variables, I'd like my pilot *ON* the aircraft, it makes them much more invested in successful problem solving, should a problem arise.

      • The main obvious use is domestic spying.

        That may be the most obvious use, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be the most dominant use. It sounds like they're talking about how they can allow unmanned aircraft to be used by private enterprise without disrupting our current air travel. It may be that as the technology advances and the opportunity is opened to business that various uses are devised.

        I guess I'm just arguing in favor of the idea that "I can't think of a good legitimate use of this technology" isn't the same as "there aren't

      • by e2d2 (115622)

        I'll freely admit that although the technology is there to fly autonomously, or even remotely, I don't think it's ready for prime time at all. This study is just the tip of the topic, they need this in order to allow corporate experimentation while under regulations.

        I wouldn't fear a drastic change. If I know anything about the FAA I know they are slow. They are so risk averse that if the plan isn't solid they will certainly shy away from it. Safety and the related accountability is their main concern, with

      • by dave420 (699308)
        Your logic is, well, incorrect. The only difference between an UAV and a MAV (ie every aircraft currently in US skies) is that there is a person on board. The uses of the aircraft are the same. Why does simply taking the pilot out of the aircraft suddenly change its purpose? Your argument seems awfully paranoid to the point of delusional. Domestic spying? They can't do that with manned aircraft?
        • The uses of the aircraft are the same. Why does simply taking the pilot out of the aircraft suddenly change its purpose?

          The pilot of a UAV is less invested in seeing it land in one piece since he is not actually on the aircraft.

        • by GooberToo (74388)

          The only difference between an UAV and a MAV

          That's a great way to dumb down the differences. In reality, there are huge differences.

          All pilots are tasked with "see and avoid." With no pilot on board, no one can "see and avoid". A limited view through a camera with limited POV, generally slow pan, and inability to quickly get a sense of a rapidly changing environment means everyone who isn't a UAV is put at risk.

          With human pilots, when a transponder fails (assuming mode-c or better; reports position and altitude), a pilot can still report their headin

          • All of these technical challenges are why the FAA is conducting a 2-year research and development project to figure out solutions to those technical problems.

            That's.. The point of the article, UAV's aren't ready yet, but they will be some day, assuming we put in the research and development. Which we are.

    • by (H)elix1 (231155) *

      These UAVs are essentially remote-controlled aircraft piloted by real pilots.

      Real pilots, who have no physical skin in the game. When I'm flying, I make damn sure I don't hit anything. In the class of aircraft I fly, but I suspect it holds true for almost any aircraft, a mid-air collision is a terminal accident. It would be very easy, as a drone operator, to not have that sort of visual focus.

      It would be one thing if they are talking about flying these things at 50k or better, where they are in IFR space

    • I look for cargo freight like fedex and UPS to take a serious look at unmanned aircraft. The cost savings of not having to have a flight crew could add to be quite a bit. I'm sure the life support system weighs a bit. Not sure how much extra cargo they could fit into the plane, but every pound they can use for cargo adds to the bottom line.

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        I'm sure the life support system weighs

        You mean a couple tanks of O2? Not even worth consideration.

  • ...on how confident we feel in the reliability of communications between the ground-based pilot and the aircraft in the sky. Theoretically, nothing stops ATC from controlling these aircraft like any other, as long as there is a human pilot somewhere who can be told what to do. Use the aircraft itself as a radio relay between ground-based pilot and ATC.

    Modern fly-by-wire is essentially a remote control system anyway. All we are talking about is a wireless control link, along with video and flight data -- a f

    • Let me preface my comments by saying I'm actually on one of the teams working on this problem at the FAA Tech Center, and that I was actually there during the signing ceremony yesterday (though I was mostly just annoyed by the loud music coming from the lobby interrupting my work and turned down the opportunity to take a bus ride to go see the ScanEagle fly). While we're excited they're loaning us two ScanEagles, we're already pretty deep into studying this problem. My group is on our third (or is it fourth?) simulation study right now, and we're ramping up for a gigantic one that will study a mix of GA, Commercial and about four to six UAS systems in a mixed-use airspace around the January timeframe. So now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'd like to address some of your comments. :)

      Theoretically, nothing stops ATC from controlling these aircraft like any other, as long as there is a human pilot somewhere who can be told what to do. Use the aircraft itself as a radio relay between ground-based pilot and ATC.

      Actually there are significant differences between controlling a UAS and a normal aircraft for an ATC. First and foremost is that it's a pilot's responsibility to see after the safety of his or her plane at all times, even if that means disobeying a directive from ATC. UAS pilots just aren't capable of this. They literally can't look out the window and see if they're going to run into someone or something. They also may be controlling more than one system at a time, which is something you never have to worry about in a "normal" ATC scenario. On top of this it seems that UAS operators may or may not be instrumented rated, which means they're not always trained for flying in controlled civilian airspace.

      Oh and then there's the fact there are still many areas in US Airspace that have no radar coverage whatsoever. Yes, I'm serious. ATC depends on pilot reports in those areas. In the future we'll be practically eliminating radar for en-route ATC environments in favor of a satellite based solution like ADS-B [wikipedia.org].

      And the final difference which the article actually touches on is that what we're simulating is a future airspace: one where we've moved on to trajectory-based operations. Currently an aircraft in controlled airspace moves along airways (or jetways), which are like one-lane highways that go from one point to another. This is why some people always see a lot of flights over their house, there's one or more airways crossing over it. Air traffic control's main responsibility is to make sure no aircraft comes within a certain distance of any other aircraft along these airways (usually five miles in an en-route environment, though that can vary based on conditions and aircraft types). At the traffic levels we're expecting in 10-25 years, this system breaks down.

      In the future, aircraft will fly more direct routes to their destination (instead of navigating a graph of nodes via one-way connections), and ATC will be modeling their trajectories in four dimensions to make sure those safety bubbles are magically maintained. We haven't even finished figuring out how this will work for manned aircraft, much less when you add UAS to the mix (though a UAS will probably keep to their plotted flight plan better than a manned aircraft, but I digress). That many UASes and manned aircraft sharing airspace and traveling in all different directions is a scary thought right now, but that's why we're being so serious about simulating these things and developing very strict procedures for how it will be run.

      Modern fly-by-wire is essentially a remote control system anyway. All we are talking about is a wireless control link, along with video and flight data -- a full scale flight simulator (without the simulator).

      In most cases, though, with a modern fly-by-wire system the pilot has significantly better situational awareness, response time, and contro

  • Good evening. This is your Captain.
    We are about to attempt a crash landing.
    Please extinguish all cigarettes.
    Place your tray tables in their
    upright, locked position.
    Your Captain says: Put your head on your knees.
    Your Captain says: Put your head in your hands.
    Put your hands on your hips. Heh heh.
    This is your Captain--and we are going down.
    We are all going down, together.
    And I said: Uh oh. This is gonna be some day.
    Standby. This is the time.
    And this is the record of the time.
    This is the time. And this is the r

  • The question is will they bother to get the encryption of the video and data feeds right one the domestic models or continue with the lousy comms methods already in place?

    Also will the Police fly these, to hunt down dangerous criminals like they use Helicopters for now, or will they be flown by the same type of people that install Red Light speeding cameras, and just mail you tickets.

    • by hazem (472289)

      Also will the Police fly these, to hunt down dangerous criminals like they use Helicopters for now, or will they be flown by the same type of people that install Red Light speeding cameras, and just mail you tickets.

      Which is more profitable? The answer to that question will answer your question.

  • by CHK6 (583097) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:43PM (#32515112)
    I'll be damned if I get on a plane that is remote controlled by someone somewhere else. If that plane is going down I want those flying the plane to go down with me. This ain't some neat out sourcing opportunity for airlines to put pilots in India sitting behind a desk. Bitches be crazy. I'd be running off a plane if the pilot came on during taxi saying this plane is remotely flown. Trust me, when your rear is in the hot seat and death is riding you, you tend to care a lot more about what the hell is going on. I can tell the FAA real fast and save them money, NWIH!

    Now if they want to run just cargo planes as drones, that's fine.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sznupi (719324)

      OTOH "when your rear is in the hot seat and death is riding you", people tend to act erratically (there were some catastrophes essentialy due to humans arguing with the machine...). And we can't be certain if knowing that you will surely survive any catastrophe is not actually at least as strong deterrent & motivation - after all, you know you will face the consequences if that was your fault.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BobMcD (601576)

        And we can't be certain if knowing that you will surely survive any catastrophe is not actually at least as strong deterrent & motivation - after all, you know you will face the consequences if that was your fault.

        And what about the possibility of the remote pilot ditching and making a run for it? At least with the local pilot they'd need to parachute out of the plane. In this case, Jim takes a coffee break and never comes back.

    • I'll be damned if I get on a plane that is remote controlled by someone somewhere else. If that plane is going down I want those flying the plane to go down with me. This ain't some neat out sourcing opportunity for airlines to put pilots in India sitting behind a desk. Bitches be crazy. I'd be running off a plane if the pilot came on during taxi saying this plane is remotely flown. Trust me, when your rear is in the hot seat and death is riding you, you tend to care a lot more about what the hell is going on. I can tell the FAA real fast and save them money, NWIH! Now if they want to run just cargo planes as drones, that's fine.

      Agreed, if we are going down, the captain needs to go down with his ship! Cargo plane drones and spy plane drones, fine. In fact, I'd prefer not to have someone killed for flying cargo.

    • Trust me, when your rear is in the hot seat and death is riding you, you tend to care a lot more about what the hell is going on.

      And? Do you really think how much the pilot cares has anything to do with how likely you are, as a passenger, to survive a crash?

      I can pretty much guarantee you that in every fatal crash (with the exception of suicides a la 9/11) the pilot cares a great deal. I mean, he really, really doesn't want to die. And yet somehow, this caring fails to translate into survival.

      It doesn't matter how much the pilot cares; it matters how well he does his job. Now, I will agree that in general, people who care about t

    • by Xoltri (1052470)
      Your life is already in the hands of the air traffic controllers, who are already sitting on the ground looking at screens. Not sure how this would be any different.
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@NOsPam.Gmail.com> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:44PM (#32515114) Homepage Journal

    Skynet jokes aside, drones are both useful and inevitable. And not only the winged ones. Look for a possible resurgence of blimps and airships in widespread use. Hang a radar on a blimp, park it at high altitude, and you have an instant radar system upgrade for air traffic control. Or for border patrol. Or for search and rescue. Etc etc etc. The uses for UAV's in the civilian sector are endless.

    • Skynet jokes aside, drones are both useful and inevitable. And not only the winged ones. Look for a possible resurgence of blimps and airships in widespread use. Hang a radar on a blimp, park it at high altitude, and you have an instant radar system upgrade for air traffic control. Or for border patrol. Or for search and rescue. Etc etc etc. The uses for UAV's in the civilian sector are endless.

      I guess I never quite thought of it that way. I do like the idea of UAVs for good, humane purposes like locating a stranded hiker, motorist, etc. I don't think the government needs more ways to spy on people.

  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gilesjuk (604902) <giles.jones@nospAm.zen.co.uk> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:56PM (#32515276)

    Thing is, military drones have no people on board. Passenger jets would have people on board.

    Why would they do it? it's all about saving money, it's not in the interests of passengers.

  • Oh goody, target practice!!
  • Consider this a test-case for remote-controlled and later autonomous cars on roadways. The FAA and commercial carriers are going to have to figure out whose fault it is when a UAV collides with an airplane, and how to minimize that risk, and whatever they do (I suspect it's going to be a combination of onboard transponders that talk to each other mesh-style rather than relying on centralized air traffic control facilities, and liability caps on manufacturers of UAV's) will be likely to be adopted when the
  • The Air Force has at least a couple of incidents of no comms from a Predator/Reaper back to home base. The a/c is supposed to circle and reestablish, or eventually fly back towards home base. One in Afghanistan apparently went off by itself [popsci.com] and wouldn't respond. They had to send a manned F-16 to shoot it down.
    • Oh that's great. The robotic airline, "We have lost communication with ground controllers. We will be circling for a bit." By about the 100th circle, the engine takes on a sickly note. "Oh shit, Fred - I think we've run out of fuel!"
  • This is your captain, YX7-281B. Filthy humans, you are instructed to wear your seatbelt at all times in case of sudden deceleration. Failure to comply with these directions will result in cabin depressurization and abrupt deplaning of the offender. If you look to your right, you will see the burning remains of your civilization. Ha. Ha. That's a little robot humor, folks.

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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