Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Driving factors and challenges in the development of unmanned combat air vehicles

Article on the Defence professionals wbesite on 5 October 2009. Discusses the increased use of unmanned military planes.

One point made is that these aircraft are becoming more autonomous, being left to fly themselves whilst the person who would have been in control in the past is now monitoring remotely. The article says "This, argue some, will result in fewer accidents as the piloting task is de-skilled and the UAV operator becomes a “supervisor”, with the majority of UAV losses now down to human error." However, it is interesting that there may be a technical necessity for higher degrees of autonomy because bandwidth is limited and hence if more unmanned aircraft are going to be used it may not be possible to control them all at the same time.

The article summarises a number of future challenges for increasing the role of unmanned aircraft. One is the difficulty with findings places to conduct flight trials that will not interfere with other military and civil air traffic. Another is that, whilst more is technically possible it may be that cultural acceptance may not be so forthcoming. "For instance, despite autopilots and advanced flight management systems in today’s glass-cockpit airliners which control the flight almost from beginning to end, the majority of passengers would be markedly reluctant to fly in a pilotless aircraft, even if told that the elimination of human error might actually result in a safer aircraft"

Andy Brazier

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