Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some more thoughts on unpilotted commerical planes

Right now, UAV's are doing a huge role in Iraq and Afghanistan. From some of the military research I have read, they have been phenomenally successful in bringing down IED casualty rates in Iraq. The US basically run a UAV 24 hours over patrol routes, with pattern recognition software to identify if somebody is planting an IED on the roadside.

What was expected to be possible by 2015 is already possible now due to the enormous research motivated by the necessity of war.

The next step is commercial aviation. Already commercial planes can land using instrument landing techniques. And landing is the toughest part of commercial flying. Taking off is relatively simple. The marginal research needed to have fully automated commercial flights is less than what is required for military aviation.

But I guess this is never going to happen. Because passengers will always want the comfort of having a human in the cockpit as a backstop. There is a joke I read once -

"Some day, instead of two pilots in the cockpit, they say, there will be a pilot and a dog.

The pilot's assignment will be feeding the dog.

And the dog? Well, it's there to bite the pilot if he or she dares to touch the controls."

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