Unmanned Commercial/Cargo/Charter Planes

Kestrel452

New Member
I think autopilot is as far as automation is going to go, but what are your guys' take on this subject? Are our jobs at risk during our lifetime?
 

ZapBrannigan

Old School
I think freight may be at risk. It will be quite some time before pilotless passenger transport will be accepted. The Global Hawk and similar UAV used by the the military are phenomenal. I would be amazed if there was not some transfer of that technology to civilian use.

 

C150J

Well-Known Member
I think you're going to get some fairly biased, yet VERY educated results from your poll on this forum. My continual argument about automation is this: flying a 50,000lbs. incendiary device with human life on board has much less to do with stick and rudder than it has to do with sound decision-making and thorough knowledge of regulations, company opspecs, and aircraft capability. I will take all the automation I can get so I can focus more on the "bigger picture" versus dealing with a yaw monster.

Humans need to be in the loop, whether they be on the ground in a box or in the air in 50 years. Just like programming an FMS, the software coding is "garbage in, garbage out." I can't tell you how many times my altitude has failed to capture, ADCs have failed, or things just plain change at the last minute. Are planes capable of flying themselves? SURE! But that's the last thing I WANT to do when negotiating a squall line while approaching bingo fuel.

Also, even the predator and other highly sophisticated UAVs HEAVILY, HEAVILY, rely on human operators to shoot visual approaches. The Mark I eyeball is pretty tough to compete with when turning a 2 mile base-to-final in a category D aircraft.

Lastly, as automation increases, our playing field has become more difficult. Closer separation, lower minima, and the like have made situational awareness more critical than ever. No longer are we tracking NDBs at 140KIAS - we're shooting RNP approaches through the mountains and SLOPs across the ocean. It'd be like bagging on Tiger Woods for not using Mahogany woods instead ot Titanium... the courses have gotten a LOT tougher.
 

scramjet

Well-Known Member
I think freight may be at risk. It will be quite some time before pilotless passenger transport will be accepted. The Global Hawk and similar UAV used by the the military are phenomenal. I would be amazed if there was not some transfer of that technology to civilian use.

There's really not that many significant cost advantages in UAV use right now, though. They still require an operator on the ground. When one ground based pilot can fly multiple UAVs in CONTROLLED airspace simultaneously, then I'll believe it.
 

scramjet

Well-Known Member
I think trains will replace airplanes on most routes. Airships, especially hybrid airships, could make a surprising comeback in the next 50 years... Think being able to haul 5,000+ tons versus 50-100 (for commercial airplanes)...
 

RightSeatGirl

KA'PLAH BITCHES!
I think freight may be at risk. It will be quite some time before pilotless passenger transport will be accepted. The Global Hawk and similar UAV used by the the military are phenomenal. I would be amazed if there was not some transfer of that technology to civilian use.

:yeahthat:

Could be we'll see unmanned cargo aircraft within 50 years, maybe even 10 or 20..But unmanned pax aircraft probably won't happen as long as aircraft fly aerodynamically...Maybe if anti-gravity technology of some sorts would ever become possible it could happen..The first thing would have to be automation of cars. And then it would take a few generations of folk using such to have enough confidence in said automation to get on an unmanned a/c as a passenger.
 

E_Dawg

Moderator
Eh, even freight... you don't want several hundred thousand lbs of airplane up there with windows at the controls. Even if ya got vista SP1.
 

Brian Z

Well-Known Member
I see this argument, but why have shipping and trains not gone driverless? Those modes of transportation can be argued that they are simpler than flight, but they are still manned. Sure the tech is there that it can, but what about when things go wrong?
 

scramjet

Well-Known Member
Like I said, I don't think we'll see increased automation, I think we'll see a transformation in our overall transportation infrastructure. As far as aviation, I think the airship revolution is coming at some point, or at least it should. Rigid airships and/or hybrid airplane-airships could haul significantly more than airplanes, ARE vastly more efficient, have much more forgiving flight characteristics (if designed correctly), and could be easier to maintain (for instance, staying out of the flight levels would eliminate the need for cabin pressurization). Sure, they go slower, but using technology available today, real transportation times probably wouldn't decrease by much (compared to airplanes) and the sheer load capacity would be a profitable tradeoff.
 

RightSeatGirl

KA'PLAH BITCHES!
Trains must still be manned due to the structure of the market. Different rail companies own the various lengths of track that criss cross the county. Lot's of them connect but in order to have the whole system automated you would have to have one system in place controlling all track despite ownership. That would mean companies would have to merge their operations to a degree. Essentially, until rail companies are willing to surrender proprietary control over the track they own for the sake of all rail companies it won't happen. You can't have multiple automation systems controlling interlinked track systems. Such a thing is beyond even today's know without spending more then any single rail carrier would be willing to contribute. It's cheaper to just but a Brakeman in the locamotive.
 

ChrisH

Well-Known Member
I think unmanned aircraft are a military thing. I highly doubt we will see unmanned aircraft in the civilian world, and I can guarantee most people would not step foot on an airplane that isn't being driven, with at least a human being there to oversee things. I know I will not. I just don't see that happening.

I do think we will continue to see more automation, but not unmanned.
 

Polar742

All the responsibility none of the authority
IMHO, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.

Just a few things to think about.

The airspace is an integrated system, and there will be issues of spacing flights operating by pilots and flights operated by robots and the safe integration of such aircraft.

Except for a handful of companies, freight companies tend to buy used aircraft. Any new design of robot machine is going to have a high initial capitol cost. While the cost of a flight crew won't be an issue, the maintenance of the electronics that replace a flight crew will be an issue. Anyone who's flown an aircraft with redundant systems, or an electric plane, or an older plane will tell you that maintenance is a huge issue. Until those costs get below what they can spend today, or the ROI is huge, I don't see many companies purchasing aircaft that cost significantly more to acquire to do the same job as ones they can get for a fraction of the price.
 

deek

New Member
I think unmanned aircraft are a military thing. I highly doubt we will see unmanned aircraft in the civilian world, and I can guarantee most people would not step foot on an airplane that isn't being driven, with at least a human being there to oversee things. I know I will not. I just don't see that happening.

I do think we will continue to see more automation, but not unmanned.
Would you venture to say the the F22 is the last piloted air force fighter jet made?
I say we may see one more generation of fighter jets than all computer, think of what that plane could do if it didn't have to keep someone onboard alive.

I think maybe we'd see the FO out on some short haul freight. but not airlines, people know all to often that their own computers lock up so they won't trust a computer to fly their child coast to coast.
I think trains could do some good and they wouldn't have to give up ownership of the rails, they would just all have to adopt the same protocol standards for automation (think how dvd's are all the same but made by different companies).
 

Goodspeed

Well-Known Member
Not too long ago every airline had 3 man crews, now we're down to 2. I think we can see one man crews in our lifetime.
 

SeanD

Well-Known Member
Computers dont harness the instincts trained human pilots do. I dont think it will ever be 100% automated without a pilot. If so, I doubt it will be within our lifetime.
 

Scandinavian13

New Member
I think you're going to get some fairly biased, yet VERY educated results from your poll on this forum. My continual argument about automation is this: flying a 50,000lbs. incendiary device with human life on board has much less to do with stick and rudder than it has to do with sound decision-making and thorough knowledge of regulations, company opspecs, and aircraft capability. I will take all the automation I can get so I can focus more on the "bigger picture" versus dealing with a yaw monster.

Humans need to be in the loop, whether they be on the ground in a box or in the air in 50 years. Just like programming an FMS, the software coding is "garbage in, garbage out." I can't tell you how many times my altitude has failed to capture, ADCs have failed, or things just plain change at the last minute. Are planes capable of flying themselves? SURE! But that's the last thing I WANT to do when negotiating a squall line while approaching bingo fuel.

Also, even the predator and other highly sophisticated UAVs HEAVILY, HEAVILY, rely on human operators to shoot visual approaches. The Mark I eyeball is pretty tough to compete with when turning a 2 mile base-to-final in a category D aircraft.

Lastly, as automation increases, our playing field has become more difficult. Closer separation, lower minima, and the like have made situational awareness more critical than ever. No longer are we tracking NDBs at 140KIAS - we're shooting RNP approaches through the mountains and SLOPs across the ocean. It'd be like bagging on Tiger Woods for not using Mahogany woods instead ot Titanium... the courses have gotten a LOT tougher.
:yeahthat:
 

C150J

Well-Known Member
Sure, they go slower, but using technology available today, real transportation times probably wouldn't decrease by much (compared to airplanes) and the sheer load capacity would be a profitable tradeoff.
Good points, but I can't tell you how many times I've been vectored for an approach only to look at the MFD and see 50-70 knot winds at 7,000 feet. That type of wind would make some dirigibles go backwards, wouldn't it (seriously asking, I have NO clue)?
 

KLB

Well-Known Member
IMHO, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.

Just a few things to think about.

The airspace is an integrated system, and there will be issues of spacing flights operating by pilots and flights operated by robots and the safe integration of such aircraft.

Except for a handful of companies, freight companies tend to buy used aircraft. Any new design of robot machine is going to have a high initial capitol cost. While the cost of a flight crew won't be an issue, the maintenance of the electronics that replace a flight crew will be an issue. Anyone who's flown an aircraft with redundant systems, or an electric plane, or an older plane will tell you that maintenance is a huge issue. Until those costs get below what they can spend today, or the ROI is huge, I don't see many companies purchasing aircaft that cost significantly more to acquire to do the same job as ones they can get for a fraction of the price.
:yeahthat:

Freight companies tend to fly aircraft that have passed its usefulness at the airlines.
 
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