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FAA Adds a Study On Adding Drones To Commercial Aviation

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the did-you-pack-this-drone-yourself dept.

Government 215

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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215 comments

Cue Skynet jokes (5, Insightful)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514782)

Only now they're not quite so goddamn funny.

Re:Cue Skynet jokes (2, Funny)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514820)

2001 jokes!

Tower: AirHAL you are cleared for takeoff.
AirHAL: I'm sorry Tower, I'm afraid I can't do that.

Re:Cue Skynet jokes (3, Insightful)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Cue Skynet jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515210)

Agreed. Welcome to America, the police state capital of the world

not a non sequitur! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515252)

I'm sure Barbra Streisand is gonna love this idea!

Re:Cue Skynet jokes (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515308)

patrolling everyone's backyards surveying the nude sunbathers and what's growing back there.

Drone Report 1: Bitch needs to wax

MOD PARENT UP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515578)

Up, i say! up!

Re:Cue Skynet jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514842)

Only now they're not quite so goddamn funny.

Sorry, I was too busy trying to kill 5 people so I could get a FAA-Approved Predator Missile kill-streak.

Re:Cue Skynet jokes (4, Insightful)

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

out-of-date complaints are out-of-date (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515254)

http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/publications/oep/version1/reference/eram/ [faa.gov]

"The third and by far most complex step (ERAM Release 1) is the replacement of the Host Computer System with new software and hardware ... national deployment begins in FY 2009 and concludes in FY 2011"

and a lack of qualified workers to direct existing traffic, I don't think Skynet is happening anytime soon.

Can't really argue with that complaint, but isn't a lack of qualified people more likely to lead to the development of Skynet?

Re:out-of-date complaints are out-of-date (2, Insightful)

gclef (96311) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515976)

"The third and by far most complex step (ERAM Release 1) is the replacement of the Host Computer System with new software and hardware ... national deployment begins in FY 2009 and concludes in FY 2011"

That's all well and good except for the part about it not lasting more than 6 days when they tried to use it in production [businessweek.com] . They may be *trying* to replace the old system. Whether they're succeeding at replacing it is a whole other question.

Re:Cue Skynet jokes (2, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515052)

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:Cue Skynet jokes (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515430)

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!

Re:Cue Skynet jokes (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515526)

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?

Drones in US airspace? (2, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514800)

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

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

mederbil (1756400) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514836)

Because of 'dem terrorizers!

Re:Drones in US airspace? (4, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514848)

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

Hey! (2, Funny)

internetcommie (945194) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514966)

Don't call my ass "nothing", you insensitive clod!

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515018)

...he says, lying down naked in his back yard, masterbating...

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515446)

he definitely doesn't sound like he's trying to hide anything in this case

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514860)

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!

Re:Drones in US airspace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514878)

if you have something to hide, then you have something to fear.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (4, Insightful)

Salo2112 (628590) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514886)

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

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515176)

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

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515218)

I can see the new movie drama scenes now:

"Help! The plane is out of control! Is there a network engineer on board?!?"

Re:Drones in US airspace? (3, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515462)

"Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

Re:Drones in US airspace? (2, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515832)

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

You could use use for UDP communications all.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515186)

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

Re:Drones in US airspace? (2, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515274)

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.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

ragefan (267937) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515834)

While the flight might be autonomous, apparently landing is not [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515828)

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.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (2, Insightful)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515192)

And so will your flying car.

rj

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515262)

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 autopilot could have coped.

Today, we have the pilot's abilities being enhanced by the computers' abilities. The computer handles the boring stretches of the flight where human attention will waver. It alerts the pilot to things that need attention that they might otherwise miss. Synthetic vision systems are helping pilots see in situations of low visibilities. Computers can even (with the proper equipment on the ground) land a plane in conditions that would be suicide for a human pilot. Soon enough, we'll have a situation with the pilot being on hand to cover only the most unusual situations; but I doubt you'll see the pilot removed from the equation any time soon.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515594)

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 autopilot could have coped.

Emergencies are rare enough that a small pool of pilots can be kept on stand by, waiting to respond to emergencies via a remote cockpit.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (3, Insightful)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 4 years ago | (#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]

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515302)

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.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515604)

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 have.

Pilots are expensive? (1)

bareman (60518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515336)

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.

Re:Pilots are expensive? (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515864)

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...

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515340)

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

...and drunk.

But seriously, autonomous or remote-piloted vehicles can't be hijacked. It would also make being a pilot a more bearable because a pilot could simple hand over the controls to another pilot after an 8-hour shift and go home to his family. That would get rid of things like pilot fatigue and allow them to have normal circadian rhythms in tune with their local time zone.

As for government spying -- go ahead, film me fucking in my swimming pool. I'm an exhibitionist.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

entrigant (233266) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515350)

Expensive compared to what? I spent more on a Dell R610 and an ESX license this morning than the average annual salary of a commercial airline pilot. Burger king pays more for its night shift supervisors...

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515856)

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.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514890)

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

The bigger question is why would we allow our government to deploy weaponized/spy-fitted robots over domestic airspace?

Personally, I'm just waiting to zap some pop-corn and press record on the Tivo when one of these things crashes into a commercial airliner or opens fire on the "wrong" target.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

Cjstone (1144829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515442)

I'd assume this isn't about deploying unmanned drones over US, but rather allowing them to deploy from the US. Some UAVs, such as the Global Hawk, have very long flight ranges, enough to deploy from US bases and fly to their destination overseas. It would also be useful to be able to ferry the planes from test bases and manufacturing facilities to the operation bases without having to disassemble them and load them into a cargo plane. The FAA probably wants to know how they perform in order to accomplish this, not for some hypothetical secret surveillance program.

Drones in US airspace, yay! (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515108)

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...

Re:Drones in US airspace, yay! (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515564)

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?

Re:Drones in US airspace? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515258)

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 of none spying jobs they can do. Plus if they really wanted to use them for spying they would without getting FAA regulations.
 

Re:Drones in US airspace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515718)

This isn't to enable the military to spy on you. Some missions require UAVs to fly out of bases in the continental US into theater. Currently, to avoid flying a UAV through the national airspace, they must climb up to their mission altitude (60k ft generally, in the case of something like a Global Hawk) flying in a circle or figure-8 pattern, and then fly out toward their theater. This wastes time and (more importantly) fuel.

If the FAA determines that UAVs are now (or will be in the future due to some technological improvements) safe enough to fly through the NAS at altitudes where other aircraft (commercial, personal, or otherwise) can be encountered, then you can let them fly straight to mission points, climbing along the way like an airliner does, saving time and fuel.

Re:Drones in US airspace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515742)

It really isn't as much about spying on the public as it is about moving these things in and out of congested areas.

As a controller i can tell you that airspace is already at capacity in many places. DC is a good example with all the civilian and military airports all in such close proximity to each other.

With some of these UAV's growing as large as commercial airliners, they need to be identified, separated, sequenced, and delivered to their destination just like any other large aircraft, regardless of what it's carrying or if the pilot flying it is in the aircraft or sitting in a cozy room somewhere.

I support your right to don your tinfoil hat, but please put some consideration into removing it every now and then.

Don't be silly, they told me. (4, Insightful)

professorguy (1108737) | more than 4 years ago | (#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....

Re:Don't be silly, they told me. (1)

SebaSOFT (859957) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515050)

So having a drone crash over a foreign city because of a glitch is OK, but crashing over US soil is an offense to the human kind?

Re:Don't be silly, they told me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515170)

Take a look at the traffic density over the US versus the rest of the world sometime.

First thoughts (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514856)

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 (5, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514924)

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.

Re:First thoughts (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514956)

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.

Re:First thoughts (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515914)

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 (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515606)

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:First thoughts (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515822)

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 pilot in the sky is best for situations where your target is also human so you need to be able to have someone who can continue another person's train of thought based on one action (Like fighter pilots watching how enemy pilots fly, and Rescue teams saving victims). It's the unexpected elements of humans that require another human to assist.

In the case of a commercial airliner needing to make an emergency landing, I don't see why a computer couldn't handle it, should proper emergency protocols be handled. The only problem I see arising is instrumentation error, which a few cameras in the cockpit could fix.

Re:First thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515692)

The elevator attendant arose out of the need to have a trained elevator operator stop the elevator at the right place. The first elevators didn't have buttons, they were manually operated, so if you stopped at the wrong place, you could be staring at an empty elevator shaft (or falling down one). When push button elevators were in their infancy, the trained elevator operator was still required as a matter of law, not safety. They still exist in high class hotels as a matter of convenience (the elevator operator remembers your floor, holds the door for you, gets the elevator to your floor when you wish to leave in advance of you leaving your room and calls down for your car, and other unnecessary services). Again, not a matter of safety.

Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514864)

Remember that?
Do you also remember that You Should Not Expect Privacy In A Public Place (TM)?

Key Points (4, Interesting)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Key Points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514974)

Stop! No! Now you've ruined the discussion and insane paranoid ramblings about how the government must clearly be intending to use these to spy on people. Don't you care about all of lunatics on Slashdot whose afternoons you're ruining with such calm and reasonable logic?!

Re:Key Points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515104)

Actually passenger aircraft basicly fly themselves now. The only cahge would be having the human oversight/failsafe be on the ground instead of on the aircraft itslef.

Please, no... (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515106)

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.

Re:Please, no... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515182)

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 good legitimate uses for this technology."

Re:Please, no... (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515376)

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 promoting aviation a close second.

Me personally? I hope they make it a law for a pilot to be in the cockpit even if only to babysit. I'm working towards a career in aviation as a pilot during my downtime.

Re:Please, no... (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515704)

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?

Re:Please, no... (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515794)

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.

Re:Key Points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515138)

Uhh, I'm an RPA pilot (yes, we are pushing the term "remotely piloted aircraft" instead of UAV, which is misleading, it's manned, just the man is remoted, or worse, drone, which these things completely aren't. Drones fly one preprogrammed path, get shot at, and crash into the ocean.

That being said, there is a need to fly larger aircraft in and out of permament bases in Europe and America, both to forward deploy them, and for training sorties. The US customs is already flying reapers to watch the northern and southern borders. There are also many uses, for example the global hawk was flying over Haiti the day after the earthquake, providing imagery to the red cross and other civillian oragnizations.

These creatures, though, are fully capable of autonomous flight. While generally controlled by a pilot on the ground (hence the remotely piloted) these will revert to autonomous flight if they lose their control links. This allows them to maintain safe flight in the event of a lost link. There's a bit of work to do to help controllers anticipate what the aircarft will do, but their pilots already have protocols in place. Needless to say, this is not substantially different than when a manned airplane looses its radios, except that the robot is more predictable.

Re:Key Points (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515428)

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. They are not, however. More often then not the surveillance drones the police or other locals are thinking at 10k or less - which is in VFR, or my typical airspace.

Re:Key Points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515896)

Well, speaking as a private pilot, I'd be a lot more comfortable with it if the other 'pilot' had as much to lose as I do.

Priority Failure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514932)

Here's a thought for drone useage.

Several days after the Deepwater Horizon Well mishap started, why didn't we start tasking drones for continuous surface oil monitoring? Relay that back to home base, coordinate that information through some emergency agency, say FEMA , and redirect coastal fisherman, oil barges, and dispersion vessels/aircraft to fully handle the cleanup and oil salvage of that giant fiasco in the Gulf.

I know. I'm dreaming right? That kind of coordination could never be implemented in such a timely fashion.

Point is, there are civilian and government (non-military) uses for drones that can be justified. This use by the FAA isn't one of them. Rather than pump money into an already lucrative market, manless drones, why don't they update the radar, proximity and 'awareness' technology for the entire Flight Industry instead. Oh, that would just be another Corporate Bailout.

Re:Priority Failure. (5, Insightful)

FlightTest (90079) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515086)

This isn't the FAA building and deploying UAV's on any kind of scale. This is the FAA trying to figure out how to safely integrate UAV's into the national aerospace system (NAS). Personally, as a pilot, while I distrust the FAA to some extent, as the agency charged with ensuring safety of all operators in the NAS, they are the right agency to be performing this study.

When some other agency says they're going to start launching UAV's in the NAS, the FAA needs to have ammunition to enforce safety measures to ensure that the UAV's not pose an undue hazard to other aircraft and that the UAV operators respond accordingly to instructions from air traffic control.

MOD UP! (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515466)

Smartest post in the whole thread.

It depends... (1)

dcavanaugh (248349) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514954)

...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 full scale flight simulator (without the simulator).

The new risk is mostly loss of communications (possibly via DOS attack). Without a human pilot on board, terrorists might use rogue transmitters to disrupt communications. Can't wait until the MBAs determine that costs can be reduced by outsourcing remote pilot work to India. I can hardly wait to see the Youtube videos of ATC dealing with an Indian call center!

Thinking to the logical conclusion, things get really exciting when the unmanned aircraft are truly unpiloted. They might simply have a pre-programmed GPS route to follow, all the way down to entering the airport traffic pattern and an automatic instrument landing. ATC would need some way to redirect troublesome flights; essentially reprogramming them on the fly. Hacker attacks would be disastrous.

I see dead people (1)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514962)

Americans, the new Civilian Casualties.

Re:I see dead people (2, Insightful)

kg8484 (1755554) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515092)

Already happens: http://www.drugwarrant.com/articles/drug-war-victim/ [drugwarrant.com]

troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515588)

troll, off topic, and just as biased a site as fox news

We already have "unmanned" aircraft.... (1)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514992)

...in national airspace. They're called Airbuses.

From The Air (1)

xappax (876447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515004)

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 record of the time.

Uh--this is your Captain again.
You know, I've got a funny feeling I've seen this all before.
Why? Cause I'm a caveman.
Why? Cause I've got eyes in the back of my head.
Why? It's the heat. Standby.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.

Put your hands over your eyes. Jump out of the plane.
There is not pilot. You are not alone. Standby.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.
This is the time. And this is the record of the time.

Next on COPS: Flying with the NJ Air Reserve (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515076)

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.

"yeah, but this one goes to 9-11!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515364)

great, so we get some pimply faced angsty hackers flying jumbo jets into major eyesores instead of religious nutbars who are at least willing to die for their cause.

and what happens when one of these buzzards gets sucked up in the engine of a real plane?!!!

Re:Next on COPS: Flying with the NJ Air Reserve (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515686)

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.

If I'm going down, so are the pilots (5, Insightful)

CHK6 (583097) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:If I'm going down, so are the pilots (1, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515488)

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:If I'm going down, so are the pilots (2, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515614)

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.

Re:If I'm going down, so are the pilots (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515812)

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.

Lots of useful applications here (2, Informative)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515114)

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.

Re:Lots of useful applications here (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515778)

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.

Safety (1)

lavagolemking (1352431) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515216)

So the government that cannot keep a UFO theorist with a hackbot out of their network wants to fly its airplanes by remote control, using the same technology that continues to mistakenly shoot innocent civilians. I'd feel more comfortable with a pilot on the plane, where he can actually take action if something goes wrong.

Why? (2, Insightful)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Joking (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515372)

Oh goody, target practice!!

Airplanes now, cars later (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515600)

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 first fully autonomous vehicles appear.

wHY nOT? (0, Flamebait)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515602)

Local governments in Texas are already using them to spy on citizens. And I'm sure they'd only be used for the stated purpose and carry no secret capabilities at all. Just like the pervert naked airport scanners don't save pictures until they do; just like you can turn off the GPS tracker on your cellphones but you can't, just like every other lie and deception you people have gobbled like candy on October 31st.

Obama has already put US citizens on assassination hit lists, which is the logical consequence of your deafening silence about the assassination of Afghanis and Pakistanis and Iraqis, and their families, without charge or trial. So forgive me if I get the giggles in my FEMA detention trailer if they grant me the mercy of reading the occasional newspaper while I watch you all suffer from exactly the Hell you have cheered on when it was happening to so many other people.

Oh, don't forget to mod me down usual mob of government shills and employees wasting my tax dollars trolling internet forums.

keep them in positive control airspace only! (1)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515758)

1. Keep the things in positive controlled airspace at all times. 2. Minimize the amount of positive controlled airspace.

Loss of communication? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515810)

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.

Re:Loss of communication? (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515878)

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 speaking.. (1)

MaerD (954222) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515842)

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.

I for one do not welcome our fascist overlords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515990)

total information awareness and...

Bonus, murder by remote control.

Lets see, vile butchers like Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obamma will have these at their disposal against US citizens... just look at all those dead who were in wedding parties (and funerals for the dead from wedding parties hit by drones) in Afganistan and Pakistan, since Bush Jr. and Obama got these new toys, for answer to, "what could possibly go wrong?"

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