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Automagic No-Fly-Zone Enforcement

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the also-works-to-keep-dogs-out-of-your-yard dept.

Technology 536

An anonymous reader writes "SoftWalls is the name of an aviation project at UC-Berkeley that's developing a system for commercial airliners that establishes and enforces no-fly zones. Basically, through GPS, if a plane begins to enter a no-fly zone (eg, around a mountain, or over Lower Manhattan), an alarm goes off in the cockpit. If ignored, the system actively removes control of the plane away from the pilot and co-pilot to steer the plane out of the no-fly zone. The technology is intended as both an accident prevention technique and a deterrent to terrorists planning to ram a building. ABCNews recently profiled the project (with video) and also rode along with a working prototype built by Honeywell that successfully kept a Beechcraft from hitting a mountain."

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First (-1)

TheSpoogeAwards (589343) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869135)

Shut up, fuckshits.

Why get in a plane to ram a building.. (5, Interesting)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869143)

When you can find a way to do it remotely !

The real question is ... (4, Interesting)

bigjocker (113512) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869158)

Why wasn't this been implemented before? I don't care a rat arse about terrorists this and terrorists that, but I have lost a few friends in airplane crashes. With these technologies available at least a decade ago (this project is an implementation of a few old technologies) why isn't this a major requirement for all new planes?

A lot of lives would have been saved if a plane would have at least a small database of known mountains in the flight path. Why don't our planes avoid mountains automatically?

Re:The real question is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869226)

Project "Home Run" []

This has already been done. It was a DARPA project back in the 70's. You think S11 happened by terrorists armed with pocket knives? Please.

Re:The real question is ... (2, Funny)

Megor1 (621918) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869242)

No the REAL question is how much mana does it take to get a "*Automagic* No-Fly-Zone Enforcement" going.

Technology just becoming "mature"... (4, Informative)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869252)

The military has been using TCAS for years, although it does not automatically remove pilot control. TCAS is designed to "see" the traffic situation in the vicinity of the aircraft, but similar technology works with large land masses also.

The core technologies have been around awhile but I think it's important to remember that GPS technology and fast small CPUs are just now becoming "mature", so it's not out of line that these systems are still in the testing phase. Sure, ten years ago maybe you could build such systems with half of the first class section stuffed with hardware...

Re:The real question is ... (2, Informative)

numbnut (627770) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869316)

Umm, yeah. And maybe the super duper computer will make sure that you fill up the gas tanks before you leave and keep the engine from malfunctioning. Stupidity will find a way. It always does.

Re:The real question is ... (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869321)

I may be wrong, but I thought that accurate GPS was run over two channels, and that the non-military one was sometimes scrambled to throw off the signal. What happens when the pilot tries to get into an airport and the plane suddenly steers away based on a scrambled GPS report?

Remote Control Planes (2, Interesting)

yintercept (517362) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869301)

Right now, terrorism of the skies is pretty much restricted to those groups that have a ready supply of people willing to kill themselves for their cause. Remote control airplanes will open the terrorist industry to technical savvy terrorist groups who like to work safely from the ground.

Best of all, remote control airplanes would allow terrorist groups to work in larger numbers. Right now, terrorist groups are pushed to their limits to take over 4 airplanes. In this new system, a terrorist group that hacks the remote control code procedures for the soft walls project might be able to take take down 20 to 30 planes before the airlines are able to ground the fleet.

The current airline security system pretty much exludes those terrorist groups that have people willing to kill for their beliefs, but not willing to die for them. This will be welcome news to any terrorist organization with good hackers.

As for my comfort flying, the fact that I know that someone can take control of the airplane from the pilot will make me just that much more likely to buy one of those airline insurance policies.

So, basically... (0, Troll)

James A. C. Joyce (733782) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869146)

...they're going to use software to do what should be done by hardware? Anything this important shouldn't be done by remote software; the potential for abuse or accident is too great. (Remember Therac-25?) Ideally, they should build the technology into the hardware of the planes themselves, retrofitting were necessary. And I doubt that the pilots are going to accept this change.

hate to tell you this... (0)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869212)

but most modern passenger planes are flown by software, most notably the 777.

Lots were learned from therac-25, the ariane disaster, and airbus issues in terms of what needs to be done in regards to safety critical software.

The 777 avionics system for instance, was thoroughly proven with formal mathematical methods and then put through literally millions of hours of simulator testing. They practically redefined the science of how to test software validity with it.

Oh, and it was done in ada, as most safety critical applications are as ada is extremely fault tolerant and requires the same of software written in it.

Such a system wouldn't be allowed by the FAA if it didn't undergo the same type of verification and fault tolerant design from the onset and addressed every conceivable scenario. But I can see these systems enterring use in 10-15 years (about how long it takes make something like this)

Re:hate to tell you this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869294)

Wow. How long before pilots aren't necessary at all? Or is that the case now, with pilots essentially serving as props so the passengers don't freak. Perhaps one day people will be uncomfortable at the thought of a human being in control of an airplane.

Situation... (4, Interesting)

skermit (451840) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869148)

"Turn 50 degrees east-north-east... you're about to hit another plane!"
"...I can't"
"Sure you can, just turn!"
"NO... I physically CAN'T, the plane won't let me."


Taking the control out of the pilots hands is a bad thing.

Re:Situation... (2, Informative)

mgs1000 (583340) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869162)

You just described the Airbus A300. (Except it had the altitude wrong)

Re:Situation... (1)

skermit (451840) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869167)

Interesting, I never thought about altitude restrictions, do you have a link? I hadn't heard about this.

Re:Situation... (1)

mgs1000 (583340) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869216)

Here. [] I actually meant that, in this incident, the Airbus got confused about it's altitude and crashed into the ground.

Re:Situation... (1)

skermit (451840) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869241)


Re:Situation... (5, Informative)

Brahmastra (685988) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869181)

You mean Airbus A-320/330/340? They were the first fly-by-wire passenger aircraft and there were various problems with pilots not getting control initially. In one case, a computer malfunction made the plane pitch up continuously to the point of a stall and the pilot couldn't use the controls to lower the nose

Re:Situation... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869228)

Airbus = European.

'nuff said.

Those fucking Germans and their fucking German Engineering. Can't wait 'til the first nuclear powered BMW blows up in the middle of Berlin.

Re:Situation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869282)

Who are the one that want to play with mini nukes again?

Re:Situation... (3, Informative)

Brahmastra (685988) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869237)

Interesting article [] on pilots, fly-by-wire, etc.

Re:Situation... (2, Insightful)

Farrax (83670) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869201)

Situation: non-issue.

The pilot has time to respond to the warning. During this time, he is fully in control of the plane. If he heads back out, he maintains control of the plane. If he does not head out, he is assumed to be incapable of operating the plane and is relieved of duty by the automation software.

Just like with any security issue, assuming that the end-user is in complete control of the machine at every time is a mistake. Grandma is not in control of her new Windows XP box. Joe P. Capitain is not in control of his plane when there is a gun to his head.

This is a Good Idea--let's hope the implementors make it a good reality.

Re:Situation... (1)

gehel (601073) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869296)

Grandma is not in control of her new Windows XP box.

That's why I use GNU/Linux and not M$ Windows XP. That's why on the few XP boxen I administer I dont use the aumatic Windows update "feature". That's why I trust more a Linux box with a good administrator than a Windows box with an equally good administrator. An automatic security might be a good thing for the average user, not if you really want a good security.

And I really hope that pilots are "good administrator".

Re:Situation... (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869309)

Grandma is not in control of her new Windows XP box

Hell, Windows XP isn't fully in control of the box itself ...

I find it amusing that you illustrate your point about security with a Windows example :-)

Re:Situation... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869248)

You're assuming we don't already hand our lives over to technology in planes. Last I checked if the hydraulics [sp?] fail you're pretty fucked since huge aircraft are not fly by pully as per the 1940s circa planes...


Re:Situation... (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869250)

Any fix for this is going to open up other problems. But the question that needs to be asked is "will this avoid more crashes than it creates?" To me it is a no-brainer. This sort of technology will save far more lives -- maybe from terrorism, but mostly from simple pilot error -- than it will kill.

My guess (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869152)

Half these posts will be like, "Well what if they are flying through the no-fly zone to avert danger?? I bet the engineers didn't think of that!" The typical slashdot reponse to new innovations.

Re:My guess (1)

skermit (451840) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869187)

If you make a emergency button, to override this software, then what's the point of installing it in the first place? It's a valid point that myself and others are bringing up.

Re:My guess (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869288)

The point is to give the pilot an additional backup--if it keeps the aircraft from accidentally hitting something, then it's a good thing.

WRT to previous post about the microburst avoidance over the White House, it is that sort of situation that you WANT an override; say, place the system in override when the plane is coming in to an airport to provide the pilot maximum control.

Want to minimize flyovers of the Capitol/White House, even for emergencies? Then close down Reagan Airport. Baltimore/Washington (BWI) and Dulles Int'n'l airports in Virginia are the only international airports in the capital area anyway; no international flights land or originate at DCA anyway.

A tool like this would seem to be meant as an aid to the pilot, not an anti-hijacking device. To prevent the hijacking, keep the hijackers out of the cockpit in the first place. That is the ONLY way to prevent a hijacking. Remote control systems that take control away from the flight crew are nice in an ideal world, but such systems are not failsafe; prevent the problem BEFORE it happens, don't react to it.

Re:My guess (1)

skermit (451840) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869337)

It's not additional... read this:

"If the pilot did not turn, the computer would take over the controls and steer the plane itself. No human in the plane could override the system."

New innovations? As opposed to what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869188)

Microsoft "innovations"?

Re:My guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869281)

No, I wouldn't say it's a typical slashdot response. It is more like the typical 'engineer' response. To engineer something correctly (which means safely too), you have to take these things into account.

It's the other parts of a company/organization/government that push forward without thinking of these things. This AC thinks the parent AC is in one of those aother parts...

Re:My guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869298)

It's the typical response to fucking stupid ideas.

Yea we learned from 9/11 (1)

bdigit (132070) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869304)

No one building the twin towers said "What if a plane crashed into the building?" when they were building the WTC. I don't see the harm in ensuring safety by asking questions about the technology and making sure it can handle "every" possible situation.

Disaster waiting to happen (1)

Brahmastra (685988) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869153)

Anytime you take away control from the pilot, it is a disaster waiting to happen. What happens if a pilot wants to make a hard left turn to avoid a collision and this system takes over and prevents it? What if terrorists hack into the system and take control of a plane from the ground? Too many questions need to be answered before this is viable
ps: does anyone else hate the word automagic as much as me?

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (1)

cabra771 (197990) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869205)

does anyone else hate the word automagic as much as me?
Nope, just you.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869239)

Sounds like how S11 happened....

Trolls unite! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869154)

they need help in comp.os.linux.advocacy they need top-notch /. trolls

Re:Trolls unite! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869193)

What good are we going to do there?

What they really need are top-notch comp.os.linux.advocacy trolls. It's a completely different skillset.

Aside from it's a repeat... (1)

Peridriga (308995) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869155)

As I recall... The /. groupthink was mostly in agreement that it's a bad idea to take away control of the aircraft from the trained pilot who has cognative reasoning.

Good idea, maybe a different implementation would work...

Re:Aside from it's a repeat... (1)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869184)

is that cognitive reasoning or "cognactive" reasoning

Worthless (1)

SparafucileMan (544171) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869156)

Except that any terrorist worth their salt will do their homework and just disable the no-fly system, or they will lease/buy a private plane without a no-fly system.

Re:Worthless (1)

ipjohnson (580042) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869203)

Problem with lease/buy is the article is talking about commercial airliners ... you know 747s A320s not exactly cheap.

Re:Worthless (1)

SparafucileMan (544171) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869244)

Actually you can get large Boeing frieghters outright for anywhere from $500,000 to $1.5 million, and on up. $500k isn't that much--I'm sure the Saudi royal family has a few billion they wouldn't miss. (Ossama, incidently, has some $200 million)

Re:Worthless (1)

SparafucileMan (544171) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869264)

More information is here [] .

Oh, and I almost forgot, any 'terrorist' who has the support of any state intelligence agency would certainly have a few million USD at their disposal.

Re:Worthless (1)

ipjohnson (580042) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869333)

And when you drop that type of cash on a plane it sends up red flags ...

And how would you get it off the ground you have to file a flight plan and have real pilots.

Maybe with a corp. front you could pull it off but as soon as you made the move you've just given up you front.

This sounds like a great idea (2, Interesting)

Tim_F (12524) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869163)

Except removing control of the plane from the pilot is probably not the way to do it.

Setting up some form of fine system would achieve the desired effect without endangering the lives of thousands or millions of people.

Please (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869166)

>>The technology is intended as both an accident prevention technique and a deterrent to terrorists planning to ram a building

Why do people seem to think that terrorists are just dumb camel jockeys from the middle of the desert who are easily impressed by internal plumbing? If an al Qaeda operative wants to smash a plane into a building, he'll figure out a way to disable such a system.

Just what we need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869168)

Great, one of these is bound to malfunction and plow an airliner into a mountain instead of away from it...

The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (5, Insightful)

swb (14022) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869170)

What happens if I'm on a flight that for whatever the reason HAS to land at La Guardia (low fuel) and cannot navigate AROUND lower Manhattan, but instead wants to go over it. And this system won't let the pilot do that, and by steering around, runs the plane out of fuel and crashes it.

So someone says "Oh, there will be an override for situations like that" -- well, why won't that override get used when someone is bound and detmined to fly a 757 into a tall building? At that point its just another warning system, which is fine, but the computer control part scares me. I like pilots in control when necessary.

Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (1)

I'm back (737470) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869202)

What happens if I'm on a flight that for whatever the reason HAS to land at La Guardia ... ?

You crash. There is no override system. And what would be the point of overriding the system anyway ... the AA guns on the ground are just going to shoot you down. A controlled ditch into the sea gives you a small, but nonzero chance, of surviving.

Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869328)

'an alarm goes off and if unignored..'

so yes there would be an override system. heck, of course there will be - they can shut the system down if they will there's no question about that! just cut the power if nothing else works(and it's so boneheaded that there isn't options on allowing certain plane to go through certain zone).

the planes need to fly above areas with population anyways..


Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869331)

What AA guns on the ground? On top of the Empire State Building? You've been watching too many movies.

Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869211)

They shouldn't be operating on fumes when they are coming in to an airport! Really, if they were getting to the point that they wern't sure if they could make it, then they should have landed at a airport earlier in their flight. They would be risking the lives of everyone on board if they did that.

The airlines have strict rules on such things, and it shouldn't EVER become a problem as you stated.

Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869231)

airport earlier in their flight

That new floating airport in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, for example?

Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869303)

The NYC airports are never the closest place to emergency land unless that was already your destination. If you're over the Atlantic, you've got an easier path to Iceland, Greenland, Boston, MA or Portland, ME to the North, or Newark, NJ to the south. If you've got an unsure airplane, the last place people on the ground want you is flying over NYC.

Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (2, Funny)

niko9 (315647) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869293)

And people tell me that there are no advantages to living in the Bronx.

Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (1)

fishbonez (177041) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869295)

I think the whole terrorism use is just a strawman. I can't see it actually being used as a viable way to stop a hijacking in progress as there will have to be an override switch. However, that doesn't prevent it from being lauded as a deterrent to would-be terrorists. The idea is to create enough perceived obstacles so as to make anyone planning a hijacking think that it will be unlikely to succeed.

The real purpose of the system is to prevent crashes into mountains, which are referred to by the euphemism "controlled flight into terrain". Basically, the pilot doesn't realize that a mountain or hill is in the flight path and just slams the plane right into it. This system will go a long way to preventing that type of accident, which is actually one of the more common.

Re:The lower Manhattan nightmare scenerio (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869299)

Wouldn't that be mitigated by combining altitide limits and walls? I know of CNC machines that do this.

GPS Jammers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869172)

What happens if the terrorists jam the GPS? or spoof it?

Skeptical (1)

Silverkm (562018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869173)

I understand that this of course is not the end all solution, although I still don't understand what protects someone from hijacking a plane and crashing it into a stadium. I'm not a pilot so I'm not sure exactly where the "no fly zones" are, but as far as I know that doesn't include major cities, especially ones that contain a major airport. I'm also not sure, but is there ever an emergency situation where one would have to cross into a no fly zone?

overall the idea seems practical, but I'm sure it would need some kind of overide protection, which completely eliminates any point to the protection.

Perhaps some kind of monitor on the piolet, like a retnakl scan to operate the plane, and measure pulse, so in the case that the pilots heart races (or drops) the plane sends a silent alarm, and can be remotly controlled

What happens to the planes when GPS is dis-abled (3, Interesting)

PaK_Phoenix (445224) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869175)

Would a catastrophic loss of the GPS system, render these planes unusable? Also, depending on the accuracy of the system(remember they 'skew' the signal for civilian recievers), it could make the planes a bigger target, for the possibly more accurate GPS recievers on them.

I'd like this for cars... (0, Offtopic)

DohDamit (549317) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869176)

Last summer, a dim 22 year old let their dim 14 year old sister slam their brand new volkswagen into the side of my house, demolishing the car, a closet, and a bathroom. I'm sooo damn glad I wasn't taking a crap at the time. That, and I'm glad the dimwit didn't slam into the bedroom 10 feet south of the point of impact where my children were sleeping.

Re:I'd like this for cars... (1)

skermit (451840) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869272)

So let's say I was driving and your kids were in the street playing hopscotch... would you rather I had the ability to swerve and hit your house, or plow through your kids screaming obsenities?

A way around the system (1)

Eezy Bordone (645987) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869177)

No steering is going to avert the danger if I climb as high as I can and then gun it for the nearest populated landmark. Hell I can even turn the ignition off to countermand the system, right?

When we get flying cars... (1)

dynoman7 (188589) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869179)

...we will need something like this to prevent older ppl from driv...err..flying into farmer's markets.

Traditional Boeing vs. Airbus debate (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869186)

Seems these researchers are in the "Airbus camp", which favors to give the ultimate decision in certain critical situation to the machine, as opposed to the "Boeing camp", which leaves it with the pilot.

Where is aviation headed?

Sounds great (1)

ByteSlicer (735276) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869192)

But what if the terrorists get hold of some military equipement to transmit a GPS jamming signal? Sounds maybe far-fetched, but they'll go to any length to reach their goals.

Car implications (3, Interesting)

the man with the pla (710711) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869195)

Everybody's thought about automobile systems that drive for you, and I think most of us suspect it will simply be a matter of time before it happens.

Think about it: Doing a similar system in the air is a great place to learn about how to do this with cars...since asside from takeoff and landing, there's a much bigger tollerance for error in the wide blue skys.

Written in the name of sacred jihad []

air is more practical (1)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869234)

as airspace is already heavily regulated and there are relatively few aircraft in the skies at any one point which are usually piloted by far more competant people. (compared to say, rushhour where tens of millions of cars are on the road and driven by people of often dubious skills)

There are also generally only a few flight corridors that get alot of use due to popular routes, the earth's curvature and weather patterns, unlike road systems.

I'm having fun crapflooding your little website (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869286)

here [] , that was me just a few minutes ago. Suck my dick.

I thought they already had this. (0)

MongooseCN (139203) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869197)

It's called a stinger missle launcher.

Re:I thought they already had this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869329)

It's missile, you fucking American.

In other news... (4, Funny)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869200)

Terrorists cause planes to crash due to bogus information sent to the GPS, simulating a no fly zone situation, and causing them to crash into buildings.

The FAA has been reported as saying "Yep, it's doing it's job, we couldn't see such a useful feature being exploited".

The FAA is also considering trained monkeies to replace the crew. Passangers, who will be given shock buttons, seems to enjoy this idea... far too much.

shot down? (5, Interesting)

killthiskid (197397) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869204)

From the FAQ [] (warning, PDF).

A New York Times article in April of 2002 examined this issue [9]:

"A Boeing 737 pilot for a major airline recalled approaching Reagan National Airport from the south a few years ago and facing a microburst, a rainstorm that includes sudden changes in wind direction. Such a condition can lead to a crash if a plane is at low altitude and low air speed, as it is on approach. He broke off the approach and turned east. ''It was the only way to go,'' he said.

However, if he had been a little deeper into the approach, he said, ''I'd be flying right toward the protected area,'' the forbidden zone that includes the White House. A system that prevented him from turning that way would be unsafe, said the pilot, whose airline, like most, has been reluctant to discuss security changes."

Today, that plane would be shot down. So this pilot was wrong. The absence of the system is far more unsafe. No microburst is as dangerous as a modern surface-to-air missile. With Soft Walls, this pilot would have maximum maneuverability, and there would be no need to shoot down the plane (assuming that the military has confidence in the system).

I hate cutting and pasting from PDF files.

Anyway, the statement Today, that plane would be shot down. to me is a bit absolute... is this really true? IF a pilot had problems, called in said problems to the tower and acted according instructions or his own judgement, would he really get shot down? Additionally, I have a problem accepting that jets would scramble fast enough to be able to do so...

Re:shot down? (4, Funny)

EvilSporkMan (648878) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869251)

Additionally, I have a problem accepting that jets would scramble fast enough to be able to do so...
No jets need to be scrambled to launch a surface-to-air missile - it's launched from the surface, and it goes to the air.

Re:shot down? (1)

PaperTie (411784) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869259)

I am not a pilot ;)

The way I understand the FAA's rules, once a pilot declares an emergency, they can do whatever they need to do in order to ensure the safety of the airplane and everyone aboard.

Re:shot down? (1)

Neophytus (642863) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869324)

Like killing them, right?

Re:shot down? (2, Interesting)

Quixotic Raindrop (443129) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869266)

Additionally, I have a problem accepting that jets would scramble fast enough to be able to do so...

You'd be surprised, then, at how quickly on-the-ground alert aircraft can be scrambled. Perhaps more to the point, however, is that according to CNN and other public news sources many of the no-fly zones in the US now have random aircraft patrolling. A 767 might be capable of just-subsonic flight, but has no chance to get from the edge of a nfz to an interesting target against an F-15E that's already in the air. That doesn't even consider the speed of Sparrow, AMMRAM, Sidewinder, and other aircraft-mounted anti-aircraft missiles.

Re:shot down? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869317)

I don't think jets would be necessary. The type of weaponry protecting the White House is classified but AFIAK, it is there.

sounds neat but... (4, Interesting)

segment (695309) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869206)

Based on GPS? Correct me if I'm wrong here but couldn't a GPS jammer [] render this useless? (More on GPS jamming [] )

That is unless I guess commercial airlines transmit on L1 & L2 frequencies. Provided of course the military sees fit to allow commercial airlines to use that frequency. Which makes me wonder about what juridstiction the United States would have if say a Japan Airlines plane was using that frequency when it pulled in our airspace... Oh well back to work

Just what this TFR happy Administration needs... (5, Informative)

Quarters (18322) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869215)

The Bush administration is mad with power when it comes to Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs). They enact them with practically no warning and then leave them up well after the reason for their creation is over (e.g. the President goes to city X and 3 weeks later the TFR is still active).

Currently there are ten (10) TFRs around the US that were enacted soon after 9/11 and/or right before the opening of hostilities against Iraq. There is no need for these TFRs any more, yet the Administration will not instruct the FAA to remove them. The Aircraft Owner's and Pilots Association (AOPA) spends most of their time and money these days fighting the TFRs and ensuring that they are announced with enough lead time so pilots can plan around them and that they are removed in a timely manner. You can read more about it at the AOPA website [] .

This Administration does not need a technology that would enhance the annoyance they are causing priviate pilots!

hijacker checklist (1)

SubtleNuance (184325) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869220)

A) take gun from air-marshal.
B) kill air-marshal.
C) threaten passengers.
D) enter cockpit.
NEW: E) Disable softwall-thingy
F) take plane wherever I please.

Re:hijacker checklist (1)

red floyd (220712) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869323)

I suspect that A is easier said than done. Assuming the air marshal is a trained law enforcement officer, he's not going to be afraid of some terrorist with a box-cutter. He'll just shoot the bastard. (With his fuselage-safe gun).

Re:hijacker checklist (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869327)

The hope of the lock on the cockpit door is that the pilots will have enough time to realize something is going seriously wrong in passenger-land and land the plane at the nearest airport. Once the plane is on the ground, it's a whole lot easier to keep under control.

You forget these are nutters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869224)

Terrorist: fly over that way
Captain: i cant the plane wont let me
Terrorist: then disable it
Captain: I can't
Terrorist: ok , if you dont find a way within the next minute to turn it off then we torture this 6year old girl slowly in front of you until you do find a way

Here's video clip from their latest experiment (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869236)

MPEG1 []

Re:Here's video clip from their latest experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869262)

Nice tits.

A Different Worry... (0, Redundant)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869240)

I assume that the way this would work is that the standard air corridors, as they neared urban centers and military installations and such, would have soft walls preventing course deviations.

So what happens during an emergency mechanical failure when the plane is veering out of the standard air corridor, the pilot's wrestling with the stick to get the nose up enough for a non-perpendicular landing, and the soft wall override kicks in, trying to steer the plane back into the air corridor? Remember, it's not a terrorist preventative if it's easily disabled from the cockpit.

It's easy to imagine that there'd be some sort of cutoff for emergency situtations, just as it's easy to imagine another scenario in which the soft wall override kicks in at the wrong moment, dooming a plane that might have been saved otherwise.

New terrorist weapon... (1)

ChrisKnight (16039) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869254)

A high power transmitter system that blankets a plane's GPS receiver with pre-calculated gps data.

You could effectively take over a plane from the ground by feeding this automated system incorrect coordinates. The irony would be felt by the pilots would be unable to over-ride the system, becuase it has to be terrorist proof....


I'd be all for this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869257)

as long as the automatic pilot looks like this one:
<a HREF=" ">Automatic Pilot Of The Future</a>

ATM project (5, Interesting)

ipjohnson (580042) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869260)

I actually currently work on another NASA research project that is taking a slightly different approach. Our model is to not only avoid no-fly-zones but other aircraft (using ADSB reports) as well as bad weather (this relies on weather reports from ground stations.)

The big difference between the 2 projects is that ours only gives possible solution to the pilot and then he has to accept the route deviation rather than removing control from the pilot.

I mean realisticly these solution are bleeding edge and wont make it into service for 20 years. Personally I'd like to see more of a grouund based solution but that probably because my background is ATC systems.

Bad idead (1)

niko9 (315647) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869267)

Air disasters secondary to software features are well documented [] .

I guess, as always, someone is trying to make some dough off this silly scheme, hoping to prey on our "terrorism" fears.

And yes, I know the linked article ultimatley states that the end result of human error, it illustrates a very important point: Either have only the highly trained pilot fly the craft, or have a very thoroughly tested computer fly the craft.

I don't think the 2 mix very well at this point in time.


PIlot discretion (2, Insightful)

Alex Reynolds (102024) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869271)

To put this into perspective, it used to be that landing at an airport was a pilot's discretion. That is, an air traffic controller could *advise* the pilot not to land, but it was a decision ultimately up to the pilot to make.

I think there are simply too many "what-if" situations that require a pilot have control over the aircraft to allow such critical remote control. What if the jet runs out of fuel? What if the no-flyover beacon directs the jet into other air traffic or really bad weather.

Moreover, what would stop a private citizen from enabling his or her own no-flyover beacon and causing havoc: From terrorists all the way to folks living next to an airport who deal with turbine noise.

A good idea at first, but with reflection seems to cause more problems than it solves.


This will end well (0, Redundant)

rhysweatherley (193588) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869274)

Yeah, this will end well. Someone will configure the wrong co-ordinates by accident (or by design if a cracker). This will lead to some plane running into a mountain as it tries to avoid a phantom no fly zone just to the side of the mountain. And the pilot can do nothing to avoid the collision that he can see coming.

Never, ever, ever, take control away from the pilot. That's the first rule of air safety. Humans can react to unknown situations in ways that computers cannot.

Lone Gunmen (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869289)

It always comes back to the Lone Gunmen pilot (oh! pun!) episode doesn't it?

For those who don't remember: Evil government people used a remote controll device to bypass the pilots and steer a 747 into the World Trade Center...

So, they're going to use it to steer away now?

Terrorists (1)

m0rph3us0 (549631) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869297)

What if the terrorists stole some of the transponders and set them up near an airport?

doesn't anyone read? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7869310)

I noticed alot of comments about how the how this is dangerous, how pilots should never have the control of the plane taken from them, blah, blah, blah,

Yet NO WHERE in the article did it say that it was designed to take control away from the pilot, it did say, and I quote: "If ignored, the system actively removes control of the plane away from the pilot and co-pilot to steer the plane out of the no-fly zone." which leads me to the conclussion that the pilot still has control of the plane.

Now I did click the link and didn't find anything that says otherwise.

Same goal - different implementation... (1)

igrp (732252) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869312)

This proposition obviously has some problems, as others have pointed out.

There was an interesting story on cryptome a few days ago [] about putting a Phalanx anti-aircraft missle & 20mm machine gun defense system [] on top of the proposed Freedom Towers. Well, I don't know if a setup like that could effectively disable or destroy a target before it reaches its mark but I have to admit it sounds more viable than the solution describe in the article...

Aargh! (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 10 years ago | (#7869335)

I believe Michael chose the story title just to piss me off [] !
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