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Old 29th Nov 2017, 15:19   #1 (permalink)
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"Looking Forward" to a Pilotless Future

I thought I would put this here as it deserves some technical discussion. The thread title comes from a Bloomberg article:

"Airbus Looking Forward to a Pilotless Future"
Quote:
Airbus SE is looking to develop autonomous aircraft and technologies that will allow a single pilot to operate commercial jetliners, helping cut costs for carriers, Chief Technology Officer Paul Eremenko said.“The more disruptive approach is to say maybe we can reduce the crew needs for our future aircraft,” Eremenko told Bloomberg Television’s Yvonne Man in an interview broadcast on Wednesday. “We’re pursuing single-pilot operation as a potential option and a lot of the technologies needed to make that happen has also put us on the path towards unpiloted operation.”
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...t-in-tech-race

Read the article before continuing.

The bean counters are already convinced, the technical aspects are being solved mainly in military operations and in smaller commercial 'drones' where attrition is more acceptable.

Large military manufacturers have been and are successfully demonstrating multiple in flight refueling and carrier landings - both technically extremely difficult. Similarly, military aircraft manufacturers have demonstrated adaptive flight control systems that can provide apparently normal aircraft handling even after quite dramatic battle damage. Against these simple passenger or cargo flights even with the occasional emergency seem to be relatively straightforward to automation.

So the question is are there technical and/or safety reasons that can be provided that are insurmountable to plans for what seems to be the decided progression.

I don't believe that the emotional and attitudinal arguments will have much weight against the financial ones. We are in an era of driverless trains and driverless cars - yet I can remember when elevators were considered unsafe without an operator - so I suspect that people could in future accept pilotless passenger aircraft.
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Old 29th Nov 2017, 15:39   #2 (permalink)
 
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To add fuel to this reflexion with Boeing view on this evolution.

https://www.seattletimes.com/busines...nts-next-year/

The emotional impact of a plane crash is massively more important than a car or bus crash.

The fear of being flown by an unmanned system could have direct consequences on the number of passengers travelling. Without passengers, no profit.
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Old 29th Nov 2017, 17:36   #3 (permalink)
 
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When the industry saves 35billion USD annually the pilotless aircraft can afford to have better redundancies obviating any real loss of services through failures. So initially single pilot for passenger confidence then subsequently no pilot operations. The writing is on the wall.
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Old 29th Nov 2017, 23:02   #4 (permalink)
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There are several threads here on PPRuNe discussing the relative merits, or otherwise, of a pilotless commercial passenger jet, the subject has been done to death.


1. Until terrorism is totally under control, if not wiped out, remotely controlled pax aircraft won't happen. A ground based remotely controlled system will need to be 100% immune from any form of electronic 'hacking' and any form of suicidal terrorist attack.


2. Without 1., (above), the international insurance market won't touch it, no insurance = no fly.


3. The cost of overcoming 1 and 2 (above) - probably insurmountable and therefore not commercially viable within our lifetimes.


4. No one has presented verifiable figures on the cost benefit of a totally remotely controlled system versus what we have today. Simply getting rid of airborne pilots, in the great big scheme of things, may not be commercially viable at all. Fifteen hour sectors, one pilot? I don't think so.


5. Repeat 1. (above).
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Old 29th Nov 2017, 23:56   #5 (permalink)


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Surely ATC would be another hurdle unless every other aircraft is also pilotless?

I'm thinking there will be a lot of unforseen job creation in order to service/maintain, ensure certification/compliance of systems, troubleshoot errors and deal with the excessive amount of new red tape that will come with completely pilotless aircraft. Have the cost savings been fully understood?

Single pilot could be all it comes to in 20 years time, and it will be trialled in cargo operations first no doubt.

Driverless trains and cars can roll to a stop or have a low speed collision (best case scenario). But hey, maybe ballistic parachutes will be attached to large jets to allow a "safe" way to crash

This is still in it's infancy

Last edited by Jeffory; 30th Nov 2017 at 01:04.
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 01:02   #6 (permalink)
 
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QF32, how does Airbus figure how a computer would handle that? Pilotless airliners? Not for this little black duck, nor single pilot.
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 02:51   #7 (permalink)
 
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Yes Megan. Absolutely!

There's always a some sort of group demanding pilots be replaced with automation and the problem with that is that there are numerous events every day, although not entirely like QF32, where pilots save the aircraft from the effects of automation...but, a save is just part of a normal day.

The biggest problem is with partial automation - by having a pilot there to take over when the system $hits itself, but who otherwise sits and does nothing for hours on end. In other words, he's only there for when the going gets really tough, but the automation won't keep him in the loop nor will it keep his skills in practice. Unrealistically, it will expect him to go from brain dead to top of his game in an instant.

'Complete' automation may happen one day but, they will need to get it to the point where the software is 100% perfect, AND the programmers will have thought of EVERYTHING, or at the very least come up with an AI that can handle EVERYTHING. As they can't even keep my desktop computer or my iPhone on line properly, I imagine they've got quite some distance to go.

If I'm still around when it does happen, you will more than likely find me running very quickly in the opposite direction......
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 06:10   #8 (permalink)
 
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KayPam,

I have recently heard that very same issue being confirmed to me by a colleague returning from some time with airbus. Interesting.
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 15:26   #9 (permalink)
 
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How about replacing CEOs with algorithms that have the long term goal of airlines in mind and not short range bonuses?
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 15:44   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by parabellum View Post
There are several threads here on PPRuNe discussing the relative merits, or otherwise, of a pilotless commercial passenger jet, the subject has been done to death.


1. Until terrorism is totally under control, if not wiped out, remotely controlled pax aircraft won't happen. A ground based remotely controlled system will need to be 100% immune from any form of electronic 'hacking' and any form of suicidal terrorist attack.


2. Without 1., (above), the international insurance market won't touch it, no insurance = no fly.


3. The cost of overcoming 1 and 2 (above) - probably insurmountable and therefore not commercially viable within our lifetimes.


4. No one has presented verifiable figures on the cost benefit of a totally remotely controlled system versus what we have today. Simply getting rid of airborne pilots, in the great big scheme of things, may not be commercially viable at all. Fifteen hour sectors, one pilot? I don't think so.


5. Repeat 1. (above).
The word used by both Airbus and Boeing was autonomous. This is not a 'remotely piloted aircraft system' RPAS. It is a fully automated autonomous aircraft. That of course does not mean that there will be no issues with insurance but the savings of an autonomous system could allow insurance rates to go a lot higher and still make the autonomous aircraft significantly cheaper.

The human on the loop systems in most of the modern aircraft are effectively autonomous aircraft with a pilot on standby watching in theory ready to pick up the bag of bolts if something goes wrong. The autonomous systems planned would be more capable than the current systems and will not have the easy escape for the system designer of "if this happens give it to the pilot".
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 17:32   #11 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smooth Airperator View Post
How about replacing CEOs with algorithms that have the long term goal of airlines in mind and not short range bonuses?
Well said. If only.
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 18:05   #12 (permalink)


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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian W View Post
The human on the loop systems in most of the modern aircraft are effectively autonomous aircraft with a pilot on standby watching in theory ready to pick up the bag of bolts if something goes wrong.
I wouldn't quite describe them as such. Pilots make a large amount of decisions and inputs even if they are using the autopilot.
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 19:05   #13 (permalink)

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We all know the one about the pilot and a dog.

How will the public take to the pilot and a battery?
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 22:20   #14 (permalink)
 
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I love it when all the clueless nerds start talking about this subject. It not even worth the energy. None of them alive now will live to see a pilotless pax airliner, even if they are kids.
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 22:23   #15 (permalink)
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Pont taken Ian W, so just the terrorist threat left to deal with?
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Old 1st Dec 2017, 02:34   #16 (permalink)
 
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I have seen discussions on this in other forums and basically it is a non starter.

Whilst pilot less aircraft individually are technically possible now, a automated airliner in a automated aviation system is just not going to happen any time soon, if ever. There are just so many unintended consequences and problems evolving from that it is bordering on impossible not to mention less safe than the system we have now. The other issue of a pilotless system is just the massive infrastructure build to make it work.

All that the tech nerds are doing is replacing one problem, 'pilot error', with a whole bunch of new problems that have not been tested yet, additional to other new problems that they haven't even considered. The old 'unknown unknowns'.

Single pilot is easy to accommodate as it already happens now, whether it is a good idea or not is a another question all together.

Last edited by neville_nobody; 1st Dec 2017 at 02:51.
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Old 1st Dec 2017, 10:53   #17 (permalink)
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"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; but if he says that it is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Arthur C Clarke.

Autonomous aircraft are already flying and have been for some years. Plans are well advanced for pax carrying autonomous aircraft as air taxis - so we will see if there are queues for the service or no takers.

Dubai Is Test-Flying Its Future Air Taxis

https://www.uasvision.com/2017/11/09...eal-with-nasa/

https://www.theguardian.com/technolo...-taxi-software
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Old 2nd Dec 2017, 10:26   #18 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
When the industry saves 35billion USD annually the pilotless aircraft can afford to have better redundancies obviating any real loss of services through failures
The problem with that theory is the cut throat nature of the industry. There won’t suddenly be $35B in extra profit shared about the global industry, the price of tickets would drop maintaining the thin margins and the pax would get to their holiday destination for $65 instead of $72.
An increase in safety is the only real benefit I could see ( assuming there is an increase).
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Old 2nd Dec 2017, 18:21   #19 (permalink)
 
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Let's do some maths.

Captain in low cost european airline makes 10000 plus social, pension..., if any.
Let's say it costs 16000 to his companie a month.
Copilot costs 10000
Total 26000 .

These 2 guys fly 15 days a month, 4 legs, 200 pax every flights.
They fly 15x4x200 = 12000 pax a month

26000/12000 pax = 2.17 per passenger.
For 2 pilots.

You rather buy a ticket 100 with no pilot, or 102.17 with 2 ?
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Old 2nd Dec 2017, 19:12   #20 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian W View Post
The word used by both Airbus and Boeing was autonomous. This is not a 'remotely piloted aircraft system' RPAS. It is a fully automated autonomous aircraft. That of course does not mean that there will be no issues with insurance but the savings of an autonomous system could allow insurance rates to go a lot higher and still make the autonomous aircraft significantly cheaper.

The human on the loop systems in most of the modern aircraft are effectively autonomous aircraft with a pilot on standby watching in theory ready to pick up the bag of bolts if something goes wrong. The autonomous systems planned would be more capable than the current systems and will not have the easy escape for the system designer of "if this happens give it to the pilot".
Your reasoning has a bias.
Why would the insurance rates go up ? Because airplanes would crash more.
Therefore it would be inefficient, since passengers care so much about safety (or rather, since passengers overestimate so much the danger of flying)
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