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"Looking Forward" to a Pilotless Future

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"Looking Forward" to a Pilotless Future

Old 29th Dec 2017, 20:22
  #61 (permalink)  
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They DEFINATELY wouldn't travel in an Air-bus at 6 miles above the ground without a pilot.
I beg to differ. There is considerable evidence that a significant portion of the traveling public would do so in a heartbeat if it was $20 cheaper (or 20 pounds - sorry but I don't know how to create that little symbol on my keyboard)...

Wiggy, I agree with your offspring. AI in it's current iteration sucks (I have a few stories regarding AI on cars) - but is getting better pretty much by the day. I'd say we're between 30 and 50 years from truly autonomous passenger aircraft. It won't happen soon, probably not in my lifetime. But I have no doubt it will eventually happen.
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Old 30th Dec 2017, 08:00
  #62 (permalink)  
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I wonder what portion of today's traveling public has jobs when AI can deal with air traffic's level of complexity. This of course isn't the only industry affected by it. Maybe they really will need a 20$ reduction in fares in order to afford them.
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Old 31st Dec 2017, 01:57
  #63 (permalink)  
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Here are a few of my top reasons we will not see this within the next 30-60 years:
1)Today pilots mainly monitor the aircraft computers, what will be the point in having a computer monitoring a computer?
2)Passengers will not go near the aircraft (most) and the first airline to buy it will most likely go into losses scaring off other airlines.
3)The change in inferstructure would be huge, we would have to change all the laws, the way airports work and many airways etc!
4)The technology we have today cannot create general AI which is what we need as it will think like a human. (And won’t exist for a few decades)
5)A big one is testing, this new aircraft would have to go through years, even decades of of testing and it would have to fly almost errorless to be accepted.
6)Pilot unions will put up a BIG fight against it delaying it happening.

There are many more but also the media is mainly trying to make a story to make money, Boeing basically said they’re working on the building blocks fo this technology if its needed and they simply brought a drone company (along with airbus.)
Even IF this happens in our lifetime anyone reading this will be an experienced captain so the remains jobs will easily be take by us. (Most likely anyway.)

Last edited by Highflyer3; 31st Dec 2017 at 12:41.
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Old 31st Dec 2017, 02:46
  #64 (permalink)  
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Air traffic is an entirely different matter to autonomous UAS (aka drones). The current problem with Air Traffic Management systems is that they are based on a 1930's air traffic control concept procedural control. All attempts to update the concept are mired by 'experts' in the 1930's concept who can only think in its terms. So trajectory based operations where an aircraft's future 4D positions are known allow the aircraft to fly in a way that is considered efficient by the operator (what Europe is calling the 'business trajectory). This is simple for automation to deal with and reduces airspace congestion and has been demonstrated in large scale research. However, the implementing ANSPs do not understand the concept and try to force 'trajectory based control' into their 1930's procedural concept and it becomes 'time based control' (the 4th dimension) and unsurprisingly the problems seen in today's system remain. There's more but it's not for this thread nor this log

Last edited by Ian W; 31st Dec 2017 at 18:07.
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Old 31st Dec 2017, 15:53
  #65 (permalink)  
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Ian W,

You are so right! Not only would 4D trajectory management increase airspace capacity it would also be far more efficient for all airspace users. But, as you say, the ANSPs do not understand the concept and are stuck in a 1930s mindset.
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Old 31st Dec 2017, 18:27
  #66 (permalink)  
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Taking your points in turn:

1. Current automation was designed a minimum of a decade ago based on analyses a decade before that - development is slow. Think how much your brick phone has advanced to a 'smart phone' in that time. The systems analysis was that it was easier for the programmer to drop out of problem solving early and hand the bag of bolts to the pilot - who was only using the FMS as a labor saving device. Anything difficult - automation give up.
Significant advances have been made since then - automation that can fly a very badly damaged aircraft almost as if it were undamaged. AI has increased to a level not thought possible - a computer was given the rules of chess and within hours was beating grandmasters see https://www.theguardian.com/technolo...lay-four-hours
There may be triplexed computer systems this is quite normal.

2. I would suspect that Company caution would see the freight dogs being automated first possibly as single pilot systems. I can remember when elevators always had an operator. I assure you just like automated trams, trains and cars; automated aircraft will not worry future generations.

3. The autonomous aircraft should appear to everyone else to behave and operate like a manned aircraft following the same rules. There should be no changes just to accommodate the unmanned/unpiloted aircraft. Any aircraft with a remote pilot must be able to operate safely if the link to the remote pilot goes down - so all should be capable of autonomy.

4. See the chess playing robot story above ( https://www.theguardian.com/technolo...lay-four-hours ) AI has changed a lot in the last 18 months; its rate of change and advance is faster than you would believe.

5. Certification will be an issue particularly where the certification tests were set up for human flown systems. This is going to be a complicated area not because of the length of time for testing individual aircraft but the time required for international (RTCA/EASA) agreement on what those tests should be. This work is already starting.

6. True as some did for glass cockpits and look where it got them. The reason I started this thread was to get the pilots here thinking about what WILL happen in the future. Just saying "No! not in my lifetime!" is not an option. There will be a requirement for pilots for decades to come - but do not think that UAS will not be sharing the airspace with you - they already are.
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Old 1st Jan 2018, 11:46
  #67 (permalink)  
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Ian W,

Google's chess playing system AlphaZero simply used "machine learning". It was told the rules of chess and then played against itself a gazillion times, randomly initially, with a simple reinforcement algorithm by which it eventually "learned" good moves vs bad.

That's just statistical analysis of big data. Something computers are good at. Artificial Intelligence it ain't. And it certainly takes us no further towards the holy grail of Artificial General Intelligence.

To translate that to autonomous aircraft would involve crashing a gazillion aircraft in real world conditions until it "learns" how to not crash. Sorry, but playing chess isn't transferable to a dynamic safety system in the real world.

In the global race towards autonomous cars, not even the companies themselves are in anyway pretending their vehicles will be "intelligent". They won't be. They will be following simple algorithms based on big data. When they get into trouble, they will just stop, much to the annoyance of human drivers (I'm sure we'll hear a lot about that in the coming decades).

Aircraft can't stop.

And to put any timeframe into perspective, I still have to read 50 pages of NOTAMs everyday that are still formatted for teletypewriters.
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Old 3rd Jan 2018, 01:52
  #68 (permalink)  
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Lol I remember playing droughts with my iPod in 2008 against AI and loosing... hasn’t changed than much. Additionally I’m not sure what AI will do after a total electric failure, or when little kimmys team of hackers in North Korea hack them. So far in my life I haven’t seen a driverless car (a thing that goes forwards backwards left and right) or a driverless train (something that goes forwards and backwards.) Planes may becomre automated in 30 to 50 years but it will happen slowly a pilots will disappear SLOWLY. Also if you listen to the Boeing VP interview he makes it clear that it’s an option in case we need it for commercial aviation. Additionally airbus said they’re looking at making autonomy for sign pilot operation, they have said they’re looking at how to develop AI but haven’t directly said they’re working on a pilotless future (It’s just the stupid media trying to earn money.) I also havet seen a single concept or future design without pilots. I’m sure we will see Unmanned cargo and fuel planes, and urban air taxis etc but it’ll be quite a long time untill pilots are non existent. Like ADFUS said by then humans will have lost most jobs anyway by then.

(And also where did you hear EASA working in the testing requirements for autonomous aircraft?)

Last edited by Highflyer3; 3rd Jan 2018 at 16:12.
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Old 3rd Jan 2018, 17:07
  #69 (permalink)  
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In the world of management, thousands of knuckle-heads get paid for doing nothing. In the world of flying, due to automation, thousands of pilots get paid for doing nothing. We are finally on a level playing field.
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Old 4th Jan 2018, 12:50
  #70 (permalink)  
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I am surprised you haven't seen a driverless car or train, you could go to the Docklands Light Railway not far from you and see one that has been running for years. Driverless cars are common place in many cities in the USA and are approved for trials in UK too.


There are plenty of these unpiloted air taxis that are actually past the concept stages and in development. Optionally piloted aircraft have been around for nearly 10 years. Boeing: Unmanned Little Bird H-6U

All you need to do is look at the work going on in EASA and RTCA on standards for UAS/RPAS/Drones all of them by definition need to provide certification standards for autonomy as the UAS/RPAS is autonomous when it has a comms link failure. All is available on the internet with a simple search.

The arguments being made here are that pilots are there to solve all these issues that automation cannot solve. Yet we also see discussions here on deskilling by letting the automatics fly the aircraft so when LOC happens the pilots are unable to regain control. The software is then written next time to not hand that LOC to the crew but to solve it instead. When the automatics become better than a deskilled pilot in recovering non-nominal events perhaps even identifying ahead of time when they will happen and mitigating them in advance, then it becomes very difficult to justify having a pilot.
The move from pilot in the loop to pilot on the loop has already started. once all aircraft systems and operations are pilot on the loop, the next step is pilot out of the loop. (and pilot is already out of the loop on things like FADECs)

There is a defense contract being competed for in the US for carrier borne UAS tankers that will autonomously operate from carriers and provide range extending refuelling to USN and USMC aircraft in combat operations. Refuelling and carrier landings and takeoffs are more challenging than anything that airliners or freighters will experience.
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Old 4th Jan 2018, 13:26
  #71 (permalink)  
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Refuelling and carrier landings and takeoffs are more challenging than anything that airliners or freighters will experience.
Really? At one level they all seem (mechanically) to be fairly straightforward 3D processes, though perhaps for any human element involved needing nerves of steel at some point in proceedings.....as for refueling ( I assume you are talking air to air) most navs I flew with were convinced that AAR (hose and drogue) involved just six "commands" i.e. up/down, left/right/ forward and " ..

I'll accept we are getting close to genuine autonomous airline ops being just around the corner when we've seen routine automated operations with 737/A320 sized aircraft between basic airfields with mostly visual approaches (such as those found in the Greek islands, elsewhere in Europe and probably all over the States).
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Old 4th Jan 2018, 15:56
  #72 (permalink)  
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Ian W,
I see what you mean now. When I fly my drone Andy loose signal my drone will either autonomously fly back to me, hover or make an automatic decent in emergency conditions. This is what I think you are talking about. My drone is not large but this can relate for other larger drones. If my battery goes bellow 10% the drone will fly back And allow me to take control when it has calculated the minimum distance needed to land and if it’s no longer ctritical. This is very good and all but this is fairly simple autopilot. It follows its gps to the takeoff point using altitude from where it took off and will fly above my minimum set altitude however it will not avoid obstacles (so,e drones will do that.) I can also turn on the auto land feature if I wish however for more hard landings e.g close proximity to obstacles I have to land as it is not intelligent. This will work on small recreational drones and air taxis however all air taxis have parachutes and are like a slightly more developed autopilot following Pre established routes as they are short distances. This is different to large jet commercial flying. It’s like having a jet ski that follows a route via gps and avoids shallow water and rocks using sonar and cameras. Compare that to a large cruise ship where it’s a very different type of handling etc. Autopilot is different to AI. Autopilot is programmed by pilots and has a minor level of intelligence to sustain flight. When there is a storm unless told to do so it will not avoid it. In order to just make th AI to fly an airliner it will have to cover EVERY possible scenario and know all the runways and approaches etc. I’m not sure as to how they’re going to make this by making AI programmed to fly planes or just by having deep AI to act like a pilot would. Either way I dislike AI for many reasons (other than flying.) But that’s a bit of topic.

I read the EASA regulations and they’re on about aircraft not with a pilot on board, but a controller on the ground and does not mention air fart with no human interaction at all, they’re supporting drones. Not as the media calls “robot piloted planes.”

Also another point I forgot to add is Eurymenko got fired as Airbus believed he was pushing innovation to single pilot operations/autonomy to fast. It shows how Airbus don’t believe we have the technology to do it yet as well as the time it will take to do this will be longer than he proposed. As well as Boeing also said they’re working on the “building blocks” of this technology INCASE WE NEED IT. It’s still not even certain if we will have, although most likely at some point in this century and certainly in the next.
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Old 4th Jan 2018, 20:51
  #73 (permalink)  
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The UAS will also be playing chick as well and buddy-buddy refueling can be interesting.

With GLS there is really no need for any 'visual'/non-instrument approaches to any runway in the world. Add the SVS that automatic systems can use as cross match to 3D radar maps and automated approaches should be possible to anywhere. With GLS an aircraft can be 'established' while in a turn on a GLS approach so the procedures can be a little more interesting than just long straight in descents.
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Old 4th Jan 2018, 21:51
  #74 (permalink)  
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SVS/EVS is also very difficult to put in place in piloted aircraft, let alone unpiloted ones...
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Old 4th Jan 2018, 22:06
  #75 (permalink)  
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2. Without 1., (above), the international insurance market won't touch it, no insurance = no fly.
There is not a single insured nuclear power station, yet 449ish of them are working around the globe...
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Old 4th Jan 2018, 22:36
  #76 (permalink)  
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So, can we see this scenario happening?

Autonomous Boeing and Airbus aircraft prototypes begin an extended flight test programme, airport and ATC infrastructures do the same, say 10 years for proof of concept and then another 5 years before ICAO and national CAA's can agree rule making for the new technology.

In the meantime word gets out that pilots are going to become an extinct species, save in the poorly paid General Aviation sector so the attraction of a career as a commercial pilot begins to wain. Banks (including that of mum and dad) no longer see an investment of £100k+ in training a worthwhile proposition so the supply of new pilots begins to dry up and experienced ones opt to cash in on their earliest retirement dates.

The pilot shortage situation becomes a desperate one, salaries increase and the low cost airline economic model becomes redundant which forces up fares and pax numbers fall, perhaps drastically. Big name operators gobble up their balance sheet reserves before reverting to the legacy airline model. Traditionally piloted aircraft lose value like diesel cars, and the banks who have financed them shy away from the airline sector with extremely burnt fingers.

Investors in businesses get scared by major change, but of course there are always investors for new ventures that embrace upcoming technologies. What happens in the transition period?
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Old 7th Jan 2018, 21:39
  #77 (permalink)  
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There is not a single insured nuclear power station, yet 449ish of them are working around the globe...
Meaning the owning authority have chosen to self insure and they only have to answer to themselves as, hopefully, their power station is not going anywhere that could involve third parties who might insist on a very high level of third party cover.

It won't be the hull insurance cover that is the issue with a pilotless aircraft, it will be the passenger and particularly third party liabilities cover that other countries/airports etc. will insist upon before over flight or landing rights are granted. Not sure about today but the benchmark for assessing the level of cover required was two jumbos in a mid-air collision over the CBD of a major city, it runs to billions of dollars.
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 13:03
  #78 (permalink)  
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As I've stated before when I make very occasional posts, I am not a pilot and will not comment on piloting issues - I am a Position Navigation and Timing Technologist with particular interest in testing navigation systems with emphasis on security (and of course evaluating the effectiveness of highly automated systems and how to test them). I suggest that some of you might appreciate reading the NTSB investigation into the recent (and fatal) accident between a highly automated car and a tractor/trailer in Florida. It highlights many of the issues associated with autonomous vehicle navigation - and also the issues around developing a navigation system suitable for use in dynamic traffic situations that does not require human intervention at some point.... As I have less than 10 posts I can't provide a link to the report but its reference is NTSB/HAR-17/02. If you think it worthwhile, perhaps someone else could post the link?
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 23:03
  #79 (permalink)  
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You're quite right to cite that report (https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/...ts/HAR1702.pdf <pdf>). Keep posting - you'll soon get up to 10.

One thing is for sure. If we do end up with pilot-less airliners, we'll get an accurate count of how often advanced high tech automated avionics systems fail; just count the crashes.
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 23:49
  #80 (permalink)  
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I suggest that some of you might appreciate reading the NTSB investigation into the recent (and fatal) accident between a highly automated car and a tractor/trailer in Florida.
Somewhat apples and oranges - the Tesla system was not designed or intended to be fully autonomous - it was a "Level 2" 'supervisory' system intended to assist the driver, not take his place. That he used it as a fully autonomous system so he could watch a Harry Potter film earned him a Darwin award.
None of the automotive systems currently for sale are capable of fully autonomous operation (aka "Level 5"). The best systems currently for sale are Level 1 or 2 - with some Level 3 currently in Beta test.

Edited to add this link that defines automotive automation:
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