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"Soft Control" Hybrid Pilot/Autopilot Flight Corridor

The pilot is flying the plane unless he tries to steer into a mountain...
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...in which case the autopilot senses a deviation from a set safe course that was programmed in before the flight, and steers the plane back on that course.

This same principal as those cars they have at amusement parks that you drive along a guide rail that allows some steering of the vehicle until it hits the rail. The pilot would be allowed the latitude fly above rough weather or make minor deviations in course but only within a set programmed safe corridor that would not include mountains or skyscrapers.

In case of crazy pilot syndrome, like the guy circling around until the fuel runs out, the plane would go into "this guy's nuts" mode and automatically land at the nearest airport.

This is more of a move towards autopilot controlled aircraft with a pilot on board for emergencies since the pilots would be flying the plane instead of just being on standby in case something went wrong. The latter scenario would require somebody who hasn't flown for hours, days or months to suddenly take control of an aircraft in peril requiring the greatest pilot skill possible, something you wouldn't' get from somebody who doesn't actually do a lot of flying since the autopilot usually does everything.

Takeoffs and landings could even be controlled by the pilot with safety restrictions imposed by the automated flight system I would think.

The incredibly competent guiding hand of technology running the show but giving the bio just enough control to keep in practice should the automated systems break down.

And the fun part would be that anybody could fly a 787 with absolutely no practice, although in reality you wouldn't see this much. "Ladies and gentlemen, our pilot today is Bobby who just turned 5 years old today. His little sister will be handling the rudders since he can't reach them just yet so hold on! Ok Bobby, push the "FLY NOW" button."

I'd suggest the term "soft control" for this scenario where the pilot controls the plane only within a set of parameters controlled by the autopilot.

doctorremulac3, Mar 27 2015

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       If you're going to create a system that can fly the plane, what do you need a human pilot for? More half measures.   

       Autonomous flight or don't bother.
tatterdemalion, Mar 27 2015
  

       If that idea is adopted, then why have pilots at all? Might it be possible to get the human out of the cockpit entirely? Drones can fly pre-programmed routes and can even takeoff and land autonomously. Why not airliners? DARPA is working on a new form of positioning system that is 50 times more accurate (if it all works out) than present day GPS and does not depend on satellites at all. The system is self contained within the robotic system, thus eliminating the need for any outside assistance. They might keep a pilot or - perhaps the new term would be On Board Digitial Manager or Assistant. Ground control would supervise the flights, but the on board systems would do all the actual control.
Altoidian, Mar 28 2015
  

       //If you're going to create a system that can fly the plane, what do you need a human pilot for? More half measures//   

       //If that idea is adopted, then why have pilots at all?//   

       In case the autopilot system breaks down the human pilot can take over.
doctorremulac3, Mar 28 2015
  

       You can't have that. The human pilot will crash the plane into the ground.   

       We are at (or closely approaching) a decision point regarding automated computerized big moving machines. It's already been made in some sectors. The mining industry is using self-driving trucks to haul material. We're starting to hear of designs for subway/rapid transit and heavy rail that use automated trains. Unmanned cargo ship plans are well into the development phase. Google's self-driving cars and similar technology are poised for a breakthrough soon. Probably in our lifetime, freight trucking will be transformed with automated trucks running 24 hours a day on the highways. We'll all be calling Uber self-driving cabs. Within a few decades it would not surprise me to hear of highways that prohibit human drivers.   

       So this decision has to be made with regard to the airline passenger and cargo industry as well. Sooner rather than later. There's a lot of heavy lifting already done by drone programs to learn from.   

       We've been doing things ourselves for so long, we are resistant to this change that is certainly going to come one way or another. The technology is there, and ultimately, autonomous systems will do a far better job at these sorts of tasks than humans ever could.
tatterdemalion, Mar 28 2015
  

       //You can't have that. The human pilot will crash the plane into the ground.//   

       The pilot is unable to crash the plane into the ground unless for some reason the autopilot fails.   

       The chances of the autopilot breaking down and then the pilot going nuts at the same time are very low.
doctorremulac3, Mar 29 2015
  

       // The pilot is unable to crash the plane into the ground unless for some reason the autopilot fails.   

       // The autopilot already failed, that's why you have the human pilot.   

       // In case the autopilot system breaks down the human pilot can take over.   

       // The human pilot will crash the plane into the ground.   

       // The pilot is unable to crash the plane into the ground unless for some reason the autopilot fails.   

       // The autopilot already failed, that's why you have the human pilot.   

       // In case the autopilot system breaks down the human pilot can take over.   

       // The human pilot will crash the plane into the ground.   

       etc....
tatterdemalion, Mar 29 2015
  

       tatter just fyi the f14 from the 80s and all fighter jet since cannot be flown manually. So your question in any case is a good one.   

       Did you forget cyber crime?   

       And why didnt the people evacuate?
pashute, Mar 29 2015
  

       //The mining industry is using self-driving trucks to haul material//   

       Mmmm. This doesn't have particularly good penetration yet, which you can read into all you like but basically means it's not working very well yet at the moment. Certainly 99+% of mining trucks, diggers, etc are manned or have operators a short distance away (ie remote underground mining equipment). The only real area in mining where equipment is now largely unmanned is that of stackers reclaimers and shiploaders. It's now the norm for them to be fully automatic, which 10-20 years ago was not the case. Even still, shiploaders loading low density material (where ship holds need to be filled to capacity, involving winnging out and trimming holds), or that maneuver over ships with furniture (ie derricks or vertical hatches such as handimax) will exclusively require manned operation, and will continue to do so for some time.   

       I'm just saying don't jump the gun on the whole unmanned vehicles thing yet. How does the google car respond to an accident with debris on the freeway, or a deer jumping out in front? Or any number of unpredictable, volatile situations?   

       I think the transition will be a long, slow and cautious one. But probably also an inevitable one.
Custardguts, Mar 30 2015
  

       There are still a lot of hurdles for the Google cars, no question. I didn't imply they are ready for prime time quite yet.   

       I think those issues will be solved sooner rather than later, however - many other companies are working on this stuff now than when it was just Google. Tesla's latest update will allow drivers to travel from SF to Seattle hands-free. Vehicle summoning and self-parking are coming later this year.
tatterdemalion, Mar 30 2015
  

       I suppose it concerns me because we're perfctly happy to accept human error as a cause of accidents, but computer error would be a big deal.   

       First time a google car or similar makes a bad move and causes a multi car pileup, shit's gonna hit the fan. Talk about a liability nightmare.   

       ...Anyhow, in the context of the idea which is pilot-in-loop, these concerns are less relevant. Whether the pilot overrides a normally-on autopilot, or an ever-vigilant autopilot overrides in the event of pilot error, either way there's a degree of safety above what's currently in place.   

       But a determined person, especially one with access to a cockpit, will always be able to disrupt a flight if not crash it.
Custardguts, Mar 30 2015
  

       Agreed. Regardless of how hard you make the security and reliability for the autopilot, airplanes are still pressurized tin cans in air which there are a thousand ways to break.   

       There's also this thing called the weather. I'm not sure if an autopilot can manage its way through a storm yet. Drones don't really care if their passengers reach for the barf bags, because they have none.
RayfordSteele, Mar 30 2015
  

       // we're perfctly happy to accept human error as a cause of accidents, but computer error would be a big deal.   

       I think we should be concerned with both, obviously. But the difference is one can be fixed, the other can only be obstructed or contingency-planned. A hundred years into powered flight and here we are trying to find ways to prevent deliberate crashes.
tatterdemalion, Mar 30 2015
  

       //Whether the pilot overrides a normally-on autopilot, or an ever-vigilant autopilot overrides in the event of pilot error, either way there's a degree of safety above what's currently in place.//   

       Exactly.   

       The idea of having a pilot fly continuously, albeit in a restricted mode, is to have the human in top flying shape at all times instead of getting waken up from a 6 hour sleep by an alarm system saying "You have 15 seconds to make the right decision because the autopilot just died and we're about to hit a mountain."   

       He will probably have had most of his practice in simulators at best because it's too expensive to have standby pilots train on real planes that cost real money with a primarily autopilot controlled fleet.   

       I respectfully submit that there's something to be said for this idea.
doctorremulac3, Mar 30 2015
  

       // The idea of having a pilot fly continuously, albeit in a restricted mode, is to have the human in top flying shape at all times instead of getting waken up from a 6 hour sleep by an alarm system saying "You have 15 seconds to make the right decision because the autopilot just died and we're about to hit a mountain." //   

       A pilot who has to fly the plane continuously will probably make worse decisions due to fatigue. Similarly, a pilot who has to watch over the autopilot continuously will also suffer from fatigue. A human can only perform a task alertly for something like 15 minutes without a break. Therefore, I think it would be safer to let the autopilot handle the easy flying on its own, and save the human pilot's attention and stamina for the difficult stuff… which is pretty much what they do already, though pilots are allowed to take over at any time. With this corridor, I guess they wouldn't be able to take over and fly outside of the autopilot's bounds as long as the autopilot is confident it's capable of handling the situation. Obviously you want the human pilots to be able to take over on a moment's notice in case the autopilot fails, so you can't let them sleep, but you should let them read or play games or something so they don't get fatigued from flying continuously.
notexactly, Mar 31 2015
  

       So what if the backup pilot hasn't actually flow a plane for a couple of years? Where do they get their training? Do you just buy a second training fleet?   

       Pilots have to have a certain number of recent flight hours to be ready to fly. The only person who would need more flight hours than a regular pilot would be an emergency pilot.   

       //A human can only perform a task alertly for something like 15 minutes without a break.// Bad news for anybody going in for brain surgery. Or a tax consultation for that matter.
doctorremulac3, Mar 31 2015
  
      
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