Commercial Unmanned Vehicles

Well, it’s been some time since my last blog – I guess I suffered from a severe case of blogger’s block :-)

What prompted me to blog today was my experience flying home from Amsterdam this week, and an unusual news story.

As usual I started to doze as the aircraft taxied out to the runway, but as we started to take off the usual acceleration was halted followed by braking and air brakes coming up on the wings. We then turned around and headed back to the taxi way….

Pilot informed us they had a "technical problem" which was followed by the usual 2 hour delay and changing aircraft before setting off for home again. Turned out one of a dual redundant indicator in the cockpit shows and engine over temperature fault and the technician would not sign off the aircraft as safe to fly. I don’t mind this as safety in flying is paramount – although I did regret paying for getting an earlier flight!

A couple of things struck me about this as I had been thinking about Unmanned Passenger Aircraft following a conference I attended earlier in the year (UV Europe in London) where one of the presenters thought we would see unmanned commercial passenger flights within the next 10 years.

On the face of it this problem was a logic problem, the fault occurred in the safe part of the take off, the pilot saw the fault and aborted safely. I see no reason a computer could not have done the same, in fact the computer control would have probably not had so much delay as it would have said fault – return to base – and that’s it; I can’t imagine a computer making a decision to fly anyway or to fly with a faulty indicator, as clearly the pilot would have done if the technician signed it off. (That does remind me of the Bomb #20 in Dark Star!)

Another item hit the news this week that definitely would have been helped by having an unmanned aircraft – two pilots fell asleep at the controls !

Now, I have heard of folks missing their stops on the train and even the bus, but  two pilots falling asleep at the controls is definitely a good argument for unmanned aircraft!

Would you fly in an Unmanned Passenger Plane?

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