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Plans underway for Pilotless pax A/C

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Plans underway for Pilotless pax A/C

Old 19th Jul 2004, 19:11
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Thumbs down Plans underway for Pilotless pax A/C

Today in Flight I read about a study comissioned by EU into creating pilotless passenger aircraft.

Here comes another great idea for saving on crew pay.

Who comes up with these ideas?

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Old 19th Jul 2004, 19:17
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For example Mr. Mayrhuber, CEO of LUFTHANSA.

But I'm sure he's not the only one.....

Funny, in his younger days he tried to become a pilot with Austrian, Swissair and Lufthansa, without success

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Old 19th Jul 2004, 20:45
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Some UAVs and UCAVs are increasing in size and are able to carry heavier loads and I believe that it is just a matter of time until a pilotless freighter aircraft takes to the skies. Technology marches on. THis will have a mighty impact on the air transportation industry.
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Old 19th Jul 2004, 20:49
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I wouldn't get on one - or fancy having one flying over my house.
At a guess we'll run out of oil before these things become reality
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Old 19th Jul 2004, 21:08
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The technology isn't far away but the problem lies in liability claims. If an aircraft crashes the manufacturer would be directly responsible. Every time there is a disaster the pilot is always first choice for the blame, unfairly or not.

Just my opinion of course!


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Old 19th Jul 2004, 21:10
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"Ladies and Gentlemen, as you will have noticed, we have started our take-off run and are currently accelerating through 100 knots. XXX Airways are proud to announce that you are sitting in the first pilotless airliner. Please be assured that all systems are triplicated to ensure safety and are entirely reliable...tirely reliable...tirely reliable..."
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Old 19th Jul 2004, 21:23
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I know we laugh about this but, I believe that a pilotless CARGO aircraft is a real possibility. Afterall there are plenty of routes across the poles, for example, where the consequences of a hull loss are minimised. A few extra track miles to ensure that the aircraft does not fly over populated areas will cost a lot less than two pilots. I reckon within a few years we will have this technology. I don't see a pax pilotless aircraft as being a viable proposition until the technology has been proven which of course it will eventually be. I just hope that does not happen until after I retire!
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Old 19th Jul 2004, 22:27
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The technology to do this already exists today but it needs a lot of work and a huge amount of testing before we'll ever see it. The biggest obsticle is the communications link between the UAV and the ground *pilot*.

This data link must be fast enough to relay real-time video from at least 1 hull mounted camera, RT transmission and all the required flight data that will supply the 'virtual' cockpit on the ground. This datalink, which would need to provide at least 600kb/s of bandwidth can only be provided by a very expensive and less than 100% reliable satlink.

There is a company in Italy developing a UAV to carry 60kg of payload, it's use is reported to be within the commercial extreme urgent parcel sector.

Also, if you think about it, the UAV needs at least a pilot of some description on the ground plus a whole host of tech support guys, so is there really a significant cost saving to be had?

I don't think we'll see the first pax aircraft for an least 10 years.
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Old 19th Jul 2004, 22:49
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The first pilotless military aircraft, other than reconaissance drones, are at least ten years away. These are being developed more for extreme manoeuvrability (ie can't go outside about -3 to +9g with a human on board) than for cost reasons.

It's taken about twenty to thirty years for HUD's and fly-by-wire to get from fighters to airliners. I can't see pilotless civil aircraft in widespread use for another thirty years or so.

I retire in thirty five years... Hope my prediction is right!

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Old 19th Jul 2004, 23:14
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I don't agree that UAVs still need a 'pilot' on the ground. After all, with the use of autopilots and nav computers, all you have to do is upload a flight plan and send the aircraft on its way. Current aircraft with pilots can be flown in this manner, with only the push of a button. Add autoland and some sort of auto take off, and ther you are (or in the pilot's case, aren't).

Autonomous, robotic UAVs are already here (all be it a bit too small too carry much cargo or pax), look at Aerosonde .

I still wouldn't like to travel on one, or have one operate around me. I like the man in the loop to take care of the unexpected events. I reckon for every case of pilot error there must be hundreds of 'pilot saves the day' after a failure/emergency.
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Old 19th Jul 2004, 23:32
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.....course a UAV needs a pilot or some kind of handling team on the ground. ATC would prefer to speak to a human I'm sure.

ATC "Unmannedxxx turn left 345 decent to 3,000"
UAV "unmannedxxx bad command or filename"

Seriously though it's not a case of uploading a flight plan and away you go, any flight between A and B involves the pilots interpreting and acting upon 1,000 of variables some can be handled automatically others need a human.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 01:40
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Flight safety will increase when more of the human factor is removed.

Which company will launch the first pilotless transport?

Airbus or Boeing.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 04:57
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There will need to be some sort of 'pilot' on the ground overseeing one or a number of aircraft. Think how often pilots currently change the flight path in response to realtime weather, traffic, turbulence etc. Especially the weather.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 05:18
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I for one would never want to get on one without two folks up the front. There have been a number of incidents where Cpt and FO have managed to get an aircraft out of a tight spot. Tried to recreate it in the sim and that has failed. The computers will never have the instict that you get from thousands of hours of experience.

The only time I would like to see an aircraft controlled from the ground would be in a terrorist or hijack situation where complete control is lost in the cockpit and the aircraft brought in remotely.

Keep up the good work, I can't see it ever happening. Hope I'm right on that one.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 06:45
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Computers are very good at yes and no situations. They are lousy at maybe situation that are presented to us every time we go flying. Weather, ATC, other aircraft, personal experiences all present hundreds if not thousands of maybe situations every time we go flying. There is no computer on this planet that is capable of interpreting these situations. Until computers are developed that have true artificial intelligence we won’t see pilot less passenger aircraft. It is one thing having pilot less drones, it is another having truly pilot less passenger aircraft. Some of you may say then put the pilot on the ground. Yes sure we could do this today. What is stopping it though is there is no saving to be made for the airlines. The reality is it would probably cost them considerably more. All innovation in this industry are driven by cost savings. If there aren’t any then it won’t happen.

Last edited by 404 Titan; 20th Jul 2004 at 07:00.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 06:49
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I'm with you, Nomad. We all like autopilot, and the technology makes it easier to navigate and control the AC in hairy situations. But as SLF, I just wouldn't feel comfortable with a machine making ALL descisions. Sometimes it's just better to have crewmen making choices, even though they might make human errors. Humans may make mistakes, but planes don't crash as often as my computer does.

United 232, for example. Let a machine make the descisions and do as well as those four pilots in that DC-10. See how long it goes before it overloads and decides that it has reached an "Error...error..." that it needs time to figure out...while the plane spirals to the ground. How do you program a computer that can calculate every single thing that may go wrong in an emergency situation?

An aircraft that may be commanded from the ground in case of a total loss of aircrew...fine. Bring the technology. Use it to increase safety and reliability. But remember who is the one that is in command of that technology and leave him in a position where he may best exercise that command.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 09:05
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I wonder how a pilotless aircraft could detect the arrival of a flock of Canada Geese on the runway just as it commences its take-off run?
I suspect that the savings in personnel in the air would be more than matched by the increase in personnel on the ground required to monitor every eventuality.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 09:07
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I don't think we'll see a pilotless pax aircraft during our lifetime, but take a look at this:

Powerplant: Twin 100 hp Rotax engines
Dimensions: Wingspan 18m, fuselage length 9.4m
Weight: 1650kg
Performance: Endurance over 26hrs, Altitude over 33kft, max speed 130 [email protected]
Multi-payload capability: Up to 350 kg
Complete redundancy of all sub-systems: Engines, flight computer, avionics, mechanical and power supply
Datalink: LOS and/or Satellite comm.
Guidance/Tracking: Fully autonomous or manual flight

The only thing it needs to fly in UK airspace is certification. In theory it can be fairly easily certified with the addition of a 360 degree camera for VFR/landing/taxi and TCAS. Everything else is already installed it would just need a LOT of testing.

Possible commercial applications:
Express Parts Delivery (Airlines/Oil industry/Post to islands)
Coastal surveillance
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 09:19
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The technology is there and has been for several years now. The only thing lacking, is "passenger appeal."

You may recall that last year? the Americans flew a pilotless A/C from the USA to Australia, non stop. Then it returned.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 09:37
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The technology is there and has been for several years now.
I can assure you that the technology doesn’t exist to make a passenger aircraft pilot less and autonomous. There is no computer currently available or will be available in the near future that could provide the artificial intelligence that would be required by the authorities to make pilot less passenger carrying autonomous aircraft a reality. Having the aircraft remotely piloted from the ground is possible but the expense of doing this would be prohibitive therefore the airlines wouldn’t take it up.
You may recall that last year? the Americans flew a pilotless A/C from the USA to Australia, non stop. Then it returned.
I think you and others here are forgetting that military UAV whether they are the Predator or the Global Hawk, have been built to be expendable. That is why they are unmanned. Infact the Americans have lost quite a few due to tech problems and sending them into hostile environments.
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