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Can Unmanned Aircraft Mix With Commercial Planes?

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the fly-the-robotic-skies dept.

Transportation 203

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."

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What is the best way to kill myself? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045439)

What is the best way to kill myself? I am thinking of jumping over a high cliff onto rocks below in the next few days. Anything even more failproof?

Re:What is the best way to kill myself? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045641)

Put on a wig, some fake boobs and walk into your local LUG.

Re:What is the best way to kill myself? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046513)

This straight-line, punch-line setup is too perfect to be an accident.

No. (3, Insightful)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045463)

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

Re:No. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045497)

I'm piloting your mom's cockpit right now.

Re:No. (4, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045511)

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.

Weddings & Funerals (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045689)

These unmanned planes are especially dangerous to people attending a wedding or a funeral.

I learned this by reading about the war in Afghanistan.

Re:Weddings & Funerals (3, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045829)

These unmanned planes are especially dangerous to people attending a wedding or a funeral.

Especially when the guests are firing into the air in celebration or salute.

Re:No. (5, Interesting)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045579)

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.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045667)

Sometimes the stick itself fall asleep at the computer.

Re:No. (1)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045669)

But they do become sentient and murder millions of people. Few humans ever do either.

Re:No. (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045899)

Hitler and Stalin nailed one of those things. Not so much the other one.

Re:No. (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045693)

They also aren't particularly innovative or creative, nor can they defend themselves terribly easily...

Re:No. (5, Insightful)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:No. (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046339)

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. (5, Interesting)

cyphergirl (186872) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046577)

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.

Re:No. (2, Informative)

AnyoneEB (574727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046579)

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. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045721)

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. (4, Insightful)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 4 years ago | (#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

Re:No. (2, Funny)

bschorr (1316501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046419)

Sure, computers are completely reliable and never fai#&#(@(@ NO CARRIER

Re:No. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045803)

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. (3, Funny)

Jake73 (306340) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045925)

You haven't met enough pilots.

Re:No. (3, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045973)

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. (4, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:No. (2, Interesting)

GoodNicksAreTaken (1140859) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046271)

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 spying on citizens. 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. I could see drones being used to fertilize crops but you'd be nuts to let large tanks of anhydrous ammonia fly around on their own.

Re:No. (2, Informative)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046625)

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 airplane approaching a very busy airport to be told something like "traffic 2 oclock, two miles", and then when the pilot says he has it in sight he's told "follow that aircraft".)

A radio control pilot cannot see anything other than what his camera is looking at right now. He can't swivel his head and see the Cessna 182 bearing down on him from the left as easily as a real pilot can.

I don't doubt that fully automated aircraft are at the level of sophistication where they can operate in a fully controlled environment, but we don't have many of those, if any. And we don't have ANY method I know of for ATC to issue emergency instructions to an unpiloted UAV, so they become essentially uncontrolled controlled systems.

Re:No. (1)

GoodNicksAreTaken (1140859) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046675)

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.

Re:No. (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046773)

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 underneath.

Of course, TFA is about mixing UAV and regular aircraft in regular airspace, so "100 feet AGL" is out of context for this discussion. The flight rules for populated and sparsely populated areas, and even the unpopulated "500 feet from buildings or people", put aircraft quite a bit higher than 100 feet, unless you happen to be standing underneath the approach end of a runway. If you are standing there complaining about the aircraft passing overhead, perhaps you should move?

Re:No. (1)

xquercus (801916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046705)

I could see drones being used to fertilize crops but you'd be nuts to let large tanks of anhydrous ammonia fly around on their own.

But large tanks of aviation fuel flying around on their own isn't nuts?

Yes, but not right away. (4, Interesting)

antirelic (1030688) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045993)

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.

Re:Yes, but not right away. (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046311)

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]

Re:Yes, but not right away. (1)

neorush (1103917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046317)

I have a brother in-law who is a communications officer for the Army and has done 2 tours in Iraq and is on his way back over to Afghanistan next month. The gist of what he told me is that they don't go in anywhere not secured with out one or more of the ROV's in the air. He was basically telling me they are by far the best source of reconnaissance for ground based units that they use. His testimony to me about their performance and reliability was enough for me.

robots... (0, Troll)

sandmtyh (560543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045493)

can you say SKYnet... hope the unmanned aircraft don't take over!

Where's the issue? (5, Insightful)

Ryukotsusei (1164453) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Where's the issue? (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045657)

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).

Re:Where's the issue? (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045789)

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.

Re:Where's the issue? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046295)

Both UAVs and gliders tend to fly at low altitudes

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

rj

Re:Where's the issue? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046557)

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:Where's the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045679)

I'd be all for this provided everyone is issued with video cameras so that YouTube will have lots of cool mid-air wrecks.

9 dead people saw the issue last weekend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045759)

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/12/nyregion/12screen.html [nytimes.com]

How's that for predictability?

Re:Where's the issue? (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046029)

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.

Re:Where's the issue? (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046095)

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 population density areas).

Re:Where's the issue? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046729)

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

Re:Where's the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046169)

great, why don't you just code up some of that flight software in perl for us?

Re:Where's the issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046307)

The fact that you don't see the problem disqualifies you (thankfully) from implementing the "solution"

Pilots Union/Lobby? (5, Insightful)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045529)

Some how I think the technological aspects will be the least burdensome to implement...

Re:Pilots Union/Lobby? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046125)

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.

The end of private aviation (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045531)

This will mark the end of private aviation as the cost of equipment will be cost prohibitive.

Re:The end of private aviation (4, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045593)

No, it won't. The one thing about technology is it starts expensive, gets cheaper and cheaper then a new breakthrough comes in and makes things more expensive and the cycle starts again. Just look at hard drives, they started incredibly expensive for a small amount of storage, then they started getting higher capacity and cheaper and cheaper, then the cycle is starting again with SSDs where just a few years ago even 32 GB was -very- expensive.

Re:The end of private aviation (1)

RetroGeek (206522) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045677)

2009.08.12 16:32

Re:The end of private aviation (3, Interesting)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046103)

The one thing about technology is it starts expensive, gets cheaper and cheaper then a new breakthrough comes in and makes things more expensive and the cycle starts again.

The one thing about certified aviation electronics is that they generally DON"T get cheaper and cheaper. It's a limited market and the costs involved in certification are high.

this won't spell the end of private aviation, but don't think you'll get a transponder for $100 any time soon...

Re:The end of private aviation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046781)

case in point. TCAS would have prevented the midair collision in NYC the other day. However, TCAS costs $16K, before installation. It's proven technology. It requires less sophisticated electronics then an XM radio. However, liability laws and FAA red tape make it so expensive that it's out of the reach of GA. GA is dead.

for reference, RQ-4 Global Hawk was built with TCAS, but the FAA won't let it fly with the TCAS unit installed. figure that shit out.

I am a UAV pilot

Re:The end of private aviation (2, Insightful)

RetroGeek (206522) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045597)

For the first generation or so.

Then it will be put on a single chip and mass produced. Look at cell phones. The first ones used discrete circuits and were big and heavy.

Re:The end of private aviation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046455)

Who cares? Fuck those rich bastards. They can fly the airlines with the rest of us. Ground every fucking Cessna and cut their wings off. Recycle the metal to make something useful to the rest of society. Maybe then we can take helicopter tours near the Statue of Liberty without worrying about yet another rich fuck in a private jet running us over because he's too important to listen to air traffic control instructions.

Auto Pilot (5, Insightful)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Auto Pilot (1)

treat (84622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045697)

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:Auto Pilot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045745)

Not just nearly, it can land completely on its own from what I understand. Essentially just program the runway, etc into the autopilot and it's done. Very little flying nowadays is done manually, the pilots are essentially just there in case something goes wrong. In theory an airliner could probably be be programmed from the ground and left to fly on its own. It probably wouldn't be a good idea though, I don't think the airliners are able to handle unexpected situations entirely on their own (yet).

Re:Auto Pilot (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046173)

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:Auto Pilot (2, Informative)

EchaniDrgn (1039374) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046309)

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]

Self Destruct! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045575)

The unmanned aircraft should carry a self-destruct radio reciever and manned aircraft would carry a low-power transmitter.

If an unmanned aircraft comes within 1 mile of a commercial flight, it self destructs!

The transmitter could be a cheap $10 piece of equipment.

Problem. Solved. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Self Destruct! (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045663)

Actually, that's not too far from the truth.

An unmanned aircraft can survive much higher stresses than manned aircraft, so you could essentially make the unmanned aircraft drop out of the sky rather than collide. Maybe it can pull a 300G turn to avoid the collision. It's sensor package and avionics would react much faster than those controlled by humans.

Re:Self Destruct! (2, Informative)

treat (84622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045735)

Actually, that's not too far from the truth.

An unmanned aircraft can survive much higher stresses than manned aircraft, so you could essentially make the unmanned aircraft drop out of the sky rather than collide. Maybe it can pull a 300G turn to avoid the collision. It's sensor package and avionics would react much faster than those controlled by humans.

Not according to FAA officials, says the article:


FAA officials also point out that TCAS computes collision avoidance solutions based on characteristics of manned aircraft, and does not incorporate unmanned aircraft's slower turn and climb rates in developing conflict solutions.

Re:Self Destruct! (1)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045857)

Huh? Why would unmanned craft have slower climb/turn rates than manned craft? Presumably they would be greater, since there are no squishy bags of meat on board that get uncomfortable while pulling a G or ten.
Anyone know?

Re:Self Destruct! (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045937)

Huh? Why would unmanned craft have slower climb/turn rates than manned craft? Presumably they would be greater, since there are no squishy bags of meat on board that get uncomfortable while pulling a G or ten.
Anyone know?

Probably an artificial constraint so that interactions with other aircraft are not made worse. What if the UAV does a sharp turn into the path of a different aircraft, faster than its TCAS can react? Also many UAVs are currently remotely piloted, which leads to slower reactions.

Re:Self Destruct! (2, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046045)

My guess is that because they don't have to worry about the safety of the occupants and they know the exact weight they would cut the margins finer on the power.

I'm sure you could build a uav with manouverability better than a fighter jet but for the majority of work UAVs do you want a plane that is optimised for other things (low speed flying, range, time in the air etc).

IIRC airliners are designed to have enough power that they can limp home with a whole engine down (though thier range is considerably reduced).

Re:Self Destruct! (2, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045685)

The unmanned aircraft should carry a self-destruct radio reciever and manned aircraft would carry a low-power transmitter.

If an unmanned aircraft comes within 1 mile of a commercial flight, it self destructs!

The transmitter could be a cheap $10 piece of equipment.

Problem. Solved. What could possibly go wrong?

All the unmanned aircraft at airports suddenly go BOOOM!! when the switch is turned on?

Re:Self Destruct! (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045837)

"Problem. Solved. What could possibly go wrong?"

Gravity. Aircraft don't vanish when they break up, they scatter. :)

ATC... (4, Insightful)

Omega Hacker (6676) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:ATC... (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045871)

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.

Who cares, I want driverless cars. (0)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045623)

And also something that makes it easier to read or use the computer while being driven around without getting carsick.

Autopilot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045649)

A great deal of commercial flight is already done automatically -- with autopilot. The only thing the pilot has to do in most cases is tell the aircraft where to go (which can be done using GPS instead). There are already planes that can take off, fly to a destination, and land using GPS and ILS. A pilot is still on board to push the buttons, but that's all he/she does unless there is a problem.

Tom Rubnitz (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045655)

I don't know, but Tom Rubnitz made a video of it:
www.picklesurprise.com

Not sure what the BFD is (4, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (4, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Not sure what the BFD is (2, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046085)

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 and didn't find any mention of learning from the many years the military has of flying UAVs, let alone in civilian airspace.

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (3, Informative)

hax4bux (209237) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046267)

You might start w/this little NTSB report about a UAV in the national airspace system.

http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20060509X00531&key=1 [ntsb.gov]

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046353)

Notice that the issue was pilot error. That is a very well known case among the UAV industry and we also know that the issue was not technological by nature.

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (1)

hax4bux (209237) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046433)

Oh, ya. It absolutely was operator error. Completely agree.

If there had been a flight crew aboard, someone might have noticed the engines were shut down and someone might have been able to negotiate an emergency landing.

However, since this was a UAV the operator didn't notice the engine had shut down and of course once below the radio horizon there wasn't any chance of a emergency landing.

I'll skip the transponder going dark so ATC didn't know to move traffic away. The NTSB report does a great job by itself.

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045971)

Yeah it was awesome, it only took about an hour to get clearance to fire counter battery at mortar emplacements because a *PRICELESS* UAV *MIGHT* be in the same area. The bad guys had been gone for about 58 minutes by that point.

It's not as good as you think it is. Also shit crashes into each other all the time. The government does a good job of keeping it out of the news.

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045977)

military rules vs civilian entrenched bureaucracy.
 

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (1)

treat (84622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045979)

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.

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045985)

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:Not sure what the BFD is (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046057)

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 it's military-controlled airspace and they use modern technology, as opposed to civilian-controlled airspace that uses technology that was out of date in the 1960s.

Re:Not sure what the BFD is (2, Interesting)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046147)

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.

Plus it won't be just one UAV, they need to make regulations that will accomodate a general increase in UAV use.

Already been tried, and didn't go so well. (3, Funny)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Already been tried, and didn't go so well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046037)

I can back up what the parent said. I saw a movie once, I think it was with Arnold, that showed a similar thing happening.

Yep, only bad things can happen.

Re:Already been tried, and didn't go so well. (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046335)

I can confirm that. If it was on TV or in a movie or on the intarwebz, it's true.

Re:Already been tried, and didn't go so well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046241)

I tried this once, in a comic book I wrote. It didn't really work so well...

Didn't work out well? Did you get detained by the TSA? [slashdot.org]

yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045927)

You asked!

not the right question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045939)

It's not whether they will mix - but WILL THEY BLEND.

I think we know the answer to this from this week on the Hudson.

Yes they can (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045997)

They can.

Should they?
That is an entirely different question.

It is basic problems like this in expressing intent and understanding responses that lead people to believe in Universal "free" healthcare. There is not now, nor has there ever been, "free" healthcare. Wake up and get educated. When your politician tells you something is "free", he is LYING.

It will cost you in taxes, inflation, quality, availability, freedom of choice, and a thousand other ways. But it is not free. The revolution returned to the citizens with basic liberties and rights, and the federal government has been steadily hammering away at them ever since. If you want the government to wipe your butt for you, move to Cuba or Canada or China. Communism, socialism, and theocracies abound. If you like them so much, and they are so great...move. Last time I checked the US wasn't stopping citizens from leaving.

It will take a lot more. (5, Interesting)

lsdi (1585395) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:It will take a lot more. (2, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046769)

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 would be unreasonable to program in every possible scenario and outcome.

That being said, it'd be a lot cheaper to ditch an unmanned aircraft than it would be to ditch an airliner. Collision alarm going off due to a 747 heading towards the drone? 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's at fault when a crash occurs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046077)

I guarantee the first time there is an accident between a manned aircraft and an unmanned aircraft, it will 100% be the fault of the pilot of the manned aircraft but the media will go nuts over "OMG an unmanned aircraft STRUCK a manned aircraft today!!111"

sure they can mix! (2, Interesting)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Who says they have to mix? (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046263)

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 designs in modern aircraft no longer mechanically link the pilot to the control surfaces. And when called upon to do so, they can, in fact, automatically perform every flight maneuver required from take-off to landing (adding automatic taxiing would be obviously trivial).

All it takes is for someone to compare the rates of failure due to human error (or intrigue - the September 11th incident would have been impossible with automatically controlled aircraft), minus the rate at which human intervention prevents failures, with the expected rate of failure of the automatic control system. When the latter no longer exceeds the former, then the next generation of commercial aircraft will simply no longer have a cockpit at all.

Commercial aircraft operate under IFR. IFR is itself a precursor to an automatic control regimen. The flight plan calls for the aircraft to perform a series of maneuvers, with updates to the list of maneuvers supplied via radio from the ground by ATC. If contact with ATC is lost, everybody on the ground or in the air knows what the plane will do because of what the flight plan says.

There will always be a place for VFR and manual pilotage. But at this point, that is beginning to be a lot like saying there will always be a place for morse code in radio.

Flying Cars (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046321)

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 robustly and safely fly itself without the user being in control. Per-capita morbidity and mortality related to Autonomous Private Aircraft accidents will have to be well below that of motor vehicles for widespread acceptance.

I have always contended that there will never be "flying cars" for this reason, and that autonomous private aircraft are decades away, between 20 and 50 years in the future at current exponentially increasing technological development rates.

Take-offs are optional... (2, Insightful)

bschorr (1316501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29046501)

...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.

unmanned who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29046717)

You know Unmanned does not mean there is no one at the controls right??? Wasteful contract to pay back buddies if you ask me but you didnt... so....

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