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"Looking Forward" to a Pilotless Future

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"Looking Forward" to a Pilotless Future

Old 6th Dec 2017, 23:45
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Originally Posted by msbbarratt


Vanity is a dangerous thing in this business, and it's present in the self driving car industry. To illustrate the "problem" in the self driving car industry, consider the possibility of autonomous cars being "bullied" by humans (they won't drive into me, so I can intimidate it!). When asked on BBC Radio recently (Tech Tent, 10th Nov 2017), an industry personality was deadly serious about solving this problem with laws. Seriously? It becomes illegal for you to act in a way that is interpreted as a danger by someone else's lame brained self driving car? No way! How vain is that, expecting everyone else to be compelled by law to account for the nature of one's own product!
"Vanity". Seems more like arrogance.

No need for more laws as there are already numerous autonomous 'vehicles' operating that can be "bullied" by humans and methods available to stop the bully's. A prime example is a lift in a building. Yer summon it and tell it where to go though the lift operates the door and moves under its own computer control. If somebody comes up to an open lift door and holds their arm out they have effectivly stopped the lift in its tracks. Normal polite practice if yer holding a lift for some late arrivals and rarely bothers the people already in the lift. The "bullied" comparison would be when some drunk or yobbo comes up and keeps blocking the door. Comparing it to autonomous cars being bullied I'd suspect the police would find more then one matter to remove/control the bully's
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Old 7th Dec 2017, 06:30
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@Ian W,

Yes I'm aware that the established traditional practioners in the field of flight controls are working very hard indeed to do things the right way, to their immense credit. And they do it the traditional way; carefully evolving a testable specification, applying analytical forethought and rigour along the way, and then testing it.

That is how it should be.

It is indeed the newer breed of transport entrepreneur who I worry about the most. They seem to see rules as barriers to be pushed over, rather than enablers of a far larger market.

Unfortunately I can't guarantee that politicians won't be persuaded to make rash decisions. So far in the self driving car endeavour politicians have behaved quite sensibly (California publishes the statistics resulting from trials, much to Google's annoyance...).

Uber's approach to developing self-driving technology is a wonder to behold; it seemingly involves zero forethought and specification writing, being nothing more than throwing a lot of data into a machine learning algorithm and accepting whatever emerges as "finished" so long as it seems to behave itself!

I can add another example: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/0...ones_uas_rpas/. Mike Gadd of the CAA did a good job of pouring a large quantity of cold water on their parade by reminding them that their software would have to be considered "safety critical", and therefore certified as such. It rather took the shine of their glitzy animations and exciting talks...
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Old 8th Dec 2017, 05:36
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It sounds just like a HindenTanic...new ideas are dangerous and many new ideas are really old ideas..
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Old 8th Dec 2017, 12:43
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I think that Mike Gadd was saying that if the UAS Traffic Management System (UTM) 'took over control' of a UAS then it was acting as pilot in command and the actions could be considered safety critical.

One has to split out the vehicle software from the UTM software. Very much as in the current ATC system the aircraft may be under mandatory control, but the pilot remains responsible for the safety of the aircraft. The same applies with the autonomous aircraft - the certified autonomous software is responsible for the safety of the aircraft and not the uncertified 'safety related' but not safety critical ATC systems.

The UTM systems are doomed to fail as they are not 'integrating' UAS into the system they are setting up UAS reservations. They are doing this without any regard to the other users of the lower airspace, the powered parachutes, microlights, hang-gliders, crop sprayers, helicopters etc. etc. The lack of regard is due to abject ignorance of the operations in the lower airspace by people who think that throwing money solves problems. These UTM systems though should not be confused with integration of full size (i.e. greater than 55 pounds up to Heavy) autonomous aircraft into the airspace managed by normal ATC systems from low level up to above FL660.
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Old 8th Dec 2017, 21:54
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The phrase “extended flight controls” by Mike Gadd. was used. I take that to mean that the combination of whatever subsystems are on the aircraft being instructed by a ground based traffic management subsystem results in a single distributed flight control system, split between ground and air acting as one.

If so that would hint at a perception that an automated traffic machine management system issuing instructions to an unmanned aircraft in effect becomes part of that aircraft.

That would also mirror ATC. Yes, the pilot of an airliner has the ultimate responsibility. But the ATC officer on the other end of the radio and the system he/she is using both have to be certified as fit for purpose.

Take the pilot away and the ATC officer and their systems just became a lot more important. Replace the ATC officer altogether and it’s got even more “safety critical”.
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Old 9th Dec 2017, 17:54
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The Head of Airbus Engineering Bernard Zeigler said this was an ambition of Airbus in the early 80's. The A320 was the first step...back then the design concept of the A330/340 was intended to be single crew. If the technology existed today it is 12 years before an aircraft goes from the board to Airline Service. Not in my working life.
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Old 10th Dec 2017, 13:19
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The 747 went from forming the design team in 1963 to commercial service in 1970 and millionth passenger 6 months later. 747 Timeline | Boeing 747

Perhaps the 747 team didn't know it wasn't possible as they did that with slide rules and manual technical drawing before CATIA CAD software was available to 'speed things up'.
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Old 12th Dec 2017, 03:33
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It is indeed the newer breed of transport entrepreneur who I worry about the most. They seem to see rules as barriers to be pushed over, rather than enablers of a far larger market.
Excellent point. Most of these "flying taxi" projects I've seen don't seem to appreciate the reality of how difficult it will be getting their vehicle design certified for passenger service in most countries. They seem to think entrenched government regulatory agencies like the US FAA will readily revise established procedures and regulations just to accommodate their business plans. Even getting type certification for a conventional new aircraft design under existing regulations can easily take 3-4 years.

If you take a look at the Uber Elevate white paper, they plan to start with a piloted 4 passenger vehicle.
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Old 12th Dec 2017, 07:24
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And it's not just the regulation but practicalities too; I'm a strong advocate of drone technology where it's appropriate. I have one myself. It has guards on its rotors...one of which is now broken! Even on trains, where speed is the only operator controlled parameter, the unmanned option is not generally accepted by the travelling public.
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Old 12th Dec 2017, 14:43
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A pilots view.
Whilst I don’t agree with all of the points, the overall theme is very useful.

A theoretical view of some of the problems - myths - traditional stories - a widely held but false belief or idea.


And a military view:-
Overall, the Task Force found that unmanned systems are making a significant, positive impact on DoD objectives worldwide. However, the true value of these systems is not to provide a direct human replacement, but rather to extend and complement human capability by providing potentially unlimited persistent capabilities, reducing human exposure to life threatening tasks, and with proper design, reducing the high cognitive load currently placed on operators/supervisors.

Blame is so satisfying; without a pilot who do you blame.
The public might only accept fully autonomous commercial aircraft when they can identify someone, at the sharp end, to blame.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 13:51
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Pilotless future??

"Bring it on - can't come soon enough".

Even cheaper air tickets, and no more human rights abuse of pilots.

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Old 19th Dec 2017, 16:06
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It will come - inevitably. Just as it has for lamplighters, typists, assembly workers, stock traders, hotel workers etc. 'Hold on', I hear you cry, 'they're not exactly skilled employees!' OK, so how about the computer operators, programmers and analysts employed by big companies when Burroughs/Univac/NCR/CDC/Honeywell and IBM ruled business information just 30 years ago? What about the engineers who used to actually visit customers when their mainframes broke?
'Not really the same as pilots though'. So what about the train drivers looking forward to a career on the DLR...drone pilots in the military? So many examples if you look.
It won't happen for commercial pilots on here now - or probably the ones looking to start a career in the next five years...but happen it will.
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Old 19th Dec 2017, 18:57
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Even on trains, where speed is the only operator controlled parameter, the unmanned option is not generally accepted by the travelling public.
Yesterday, about 70 miles south of here, on the inaugural run of a new "high speed" train between Seattle and Portland, the train derailed. At least 3 people dead, 80 injured, and the main southbound freeway between Seattle and Oregon is still closed.
The human controlled train entered a 30 mph corner at 80+ mph.
Everyone is asking why the (currently available and certified) COMPUTER system to prevent such a human error wasn't installed...
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Old 21st Dec 2017, 17:12
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Self-flying airplanes are closer to reality than self-driving cars. Not that either are close to reality IMHO. Commercial airplanes operate largely in a controlled environment, under control from ATC, and with other commercial airplanes which follow the 'rules of the sky'. Yes I know there are lots of exceptions and emergencies/failures (largely solved without drama by experienced, professional human crews). But for the most part, the in-flight behavior of commercial airplanes is fairly predictable.

Self-driving cars have to deal with an environment several orders of magnitude more crowded, full of human users who are 1. not communicating, and 2. not following the 'rules of the road'. Most of the drivers around here seem intent on violating as many driving regulations as possible in the most unpredictable way possible. How is any programmed system (or even a learning AI system) supposed to figure out what some muppet intent on his next text will do in his ignorant bliss?
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Old 21st Dec 2017, 22:12
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A large factor of pilotless aircraft is the cost of the aircraft and the reliability of the systems in the aircraft - the cost plummets and the reliability increases
All of the current design and systems are done because there is a pilot , the control loops all have to go to a cockpit , all information has to go to the cockpit and be presented to a human - this adds much complexity and cost ,complexity reduces reliability.....
there is no cockpit , there are no instruments , there are no throttles , no windscreen, no W/S heating no seat ,no circuit breaker panels ,no dv windows, escape ropes , no flight directors, autopilots , no control column , no flap levers,gear levers trim wheels , no crew oxygen , ipads , manuals , life jackets , no cockpit heating or ventilation , no radios , no radar displays , no wire looms to the cockpit , no armoured cockpit door , no .......you get the picture
systems simplify because you remove the human , he/she is not there to push buttons or look at lights or make choices and actions right or wrong based on information given them by the aircraft.
It becomes a design delight and cheap as chips to do , the aircraft never gets fatigued and can operate 24/7 to exactly the same standard .
now tech develops along different lines , maybe laser guidance , maybe new trim systems or flying controls that automation can control but humans cant , maybe ground taxi systems that avoid collisions ...who knows , but it will be cheaper and ultimately safer .
no hotels,no sims ,no licences,no crew room, no crew transport ,no sickies, no rostering arguments ,no one driving to work , just 1 bloke in ops -lol
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Old 22nd Dec 2017, 12:56
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And no pax.
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Old 24th Dec 2017, 10:11
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I was at a RAeS event recently where this was being discussed. One presenter, an engineer was enthusiastically proposing that pilotless airliners would be here in 20 years. I disagreed, and when asked why, I pointed out that as a pilot, I consider that only about 5% of my flights proceed as planned without requiring some form of intervention. I fly in a high threat environment with long periods of poor weather, high terrain, less than sparkling ATC, political issues and a high number of passenger handling problems. Nearly all my flights require me to apply my considerable experience and presence on the flight deck to resolve.

And not forgetting that the EICAS/ECAM procedures are an engineers best guess at the problem. In my experience, rarely do they work as planned. In the last four big events I have had in the last five years on Airbus types, none of the ECAM procedures correctly dealt with the actual problem. The last one would have had us depressurising the aircraft had we followed the EACM procedures. The solution came from our technical knowledge of the aircraft and analysis of the actual problem.

Of course, these issues could be resolved with more computing power and more procedures. But if this were to happen, any pilotless airliner will have to have to be equipped with artificial intelligence which would have to apply a variable risk assessment factor to resolve any problems. This may even have to ignore inputs from ground control sources if 'thought' inappropriate. I reckon it's going to be a long time before that level of AI becomes available, and even longer before manufacturers, regulators and insurers are willing to endorse that. Let alone the fare paying public accepting it!

One question asked was "Would you get in a self flying airliner?" My answer was that I wouldn't have to as I consider that they are at least 40 years away and my passenger flying days would be over by then, if still alive.
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Old 26th Dec 2017, 16:44
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EICAS/ECAM -would not even be fitted to an automated aircraft, -at present the quantity of information presented is restricted , because a human has to interpret it and procedures are there because the human misinterprets the information given.
It not so much as an AI system ,as a pure logic system , a bit like a chess computer -think of 1000 engine parameters being used ,could the pilot analyse them and then what could the pilot do ? his actions are limited -automated responses can be much more complex ,engine control functions much more complex, way beyond simply moving the throttle or shutting off fuel -too much for a human to calculate
The tech would move into all the control systems on the aircraft ,each improving massively
The question will become who is dumb enough to rely on a human up front , you cant even tell your altitude ,without the machine telling you it , let alone maintaining it within 10 foot, without instruments or an autopilot .....it will all happen sooner than most think
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Old 27th Dec 2017, 07:08
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Ah, that answer to it all, “A.I.”

Talking about this thread to one of my offspring who has done just a bit of work and research involving “AI” (ground road traffic environment, traffic signalling, traffic flow decision making, that sort of thing ) her view was that the capabilities of AI are frequently overstated. It’s improving, sure, but still “clunky” ....but neverthless sold as the answer to everything by the enthutiasts.

In her VHO truely pilotless/ AI driven routine commercial flight is still multiple decades away.
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Old 29th Dec 2017, 19:05
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Money Money Money...

Passengers PROBABLY would not travel in an bus without a driver. They DEFINATELY wouldn't travel in an Air-bus at 6 miles above the ground without a pilot. Buses will stop so that the driver can rest or when they are ill. Stopping is simple. A co-pilot facilitates longer flights. Airline automation is a long term plan to come many years after buses are automated ...
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