Cabin airliner Airbus A350
Autopilot – an integral part of a modern airplane . Passenger airliners of the latest generation are largely automated. Many of them are able to carry out not just the maintenance of the course, but even the landing in automatic mode, and in fact landing is perhaps the most difficult part of the flight. But these machines carry out all the elements of landing on the autopilot: planning, leveling at a height below 10 m, then holding for the repayment of the vertical speed and the last stage is parachuting followed by landing. Then the autopilot moves, tracing the center line of the runway, applies brakes and lifts the ground spoilers. In general, a person can only control the process.
In many cases, almost the entire flight takes place on an "automatic" with partial participation of pilots. But if the pilots just got up and left the cabin – probably in the cabin would panic. Many people are not psychologically ready for this, they are unaware that they fly almost all the time on autopilot. A study by UBS showed that 54% of passengers would have refused to fly in a fully automated airplane.
As the former captain of the airline U.S. Airways and founder of the consulting company Safety Operating Systems for Aviation Security John Cox, autopilots have very few restrictions. So, they can not reverse the thrust and can not roll off the runway if necessary.
In addition, considerable human involvement is required to set up the autopilot before landing. The commander of the air ship establishes the correct operating modes of the systems – and only then, if necessary, the autopilot is switched on. That is, it can not be said that the flights are completely automated, but they can not be called fully manual either.
John Cox says that automatic landing is more effective under the same conditions, and less efficient in others. For example, during a fog and poor visibility, the pilot will almost certainly transfer control to the autopilot, because under these conditions it is much more efficient. On the other hand, with a gusty lateral wind, manual piloting is more preferable: it will be better to approach the landing area, and landing itself. In addition, it is very important that the pilots maintain their form, do not lose their abilities. And periodic landing in manual mode helps to achieve this.
Pilots train landing on autopilot during each training session. They are already accustomed to the operation of automatic systems and do not worry at all when transferring control to the computer.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said about passengers. The above-mentioned survey of the investment bank UBS was conducted among 8000 passengers, of which more than half expressed their reluctance to fly on a fully automatic flight. Although the analysis of financiers shows that the transition to full automation would save considerable money for airlines and passengers themselves. According to UBS, the savings can reach $ 35 billion per year. The main article of saving is the salaries of highly qualified personnel (ie pilots). Here, companies can save $ 31 billion. This is supplemented by savings in training ($ 3 billion) and fuel ($ 1 billion), since automatic systems operate the aircraft in a more optimal and economical mode.
Lower airline costs will also reduce costs Tickets, which will be beneficial for passengers. According to UBS, on American flights tickets should be cheaper by about 10%, and airline profits will double.
But even saving on tickets is unlikely to convince people that it's safe to board a plane without a man at the helm. In some ways, they are right, because the capabilities of the autopilot are really not unlimited, and in some situations, human participation can not be avoided, as John Cox said above. However, analysts of the investment bank believe that these sentiments will change in the future, as will the capabilities of autopilots. By the middle of the century, UBS wrote, most passengers already agree to board a fully automatic plane.
Now almost all major manufacturers of passenger aircraft are testing fully automatic airliners, writes Fortune . In June, Boeing reported that it was testing systems in the simulators so far – and it is already clear that AI can replace a person in part of the tasks. And in July, Airbus tested the unmanned Sagitta aircraft. The plane made a successful seven-minute flight according to the programmed course.
The test flight of the unmanned aircraft Sagitta Airbus Company
However, this particular The model will not be used in passenger aviation. The Airbus Defense and Space division is developing it on a military order. The test drone at a scale of 1: 4 measures 3 × 3 meters, that is, the final version of the UAV will be 12-meter. The model is accelerated by two "turbines" of 300 newtons, the maximum take-off weight is 150 kg. The case is completely made of carbon fiber composite (CFC).
It seems that the army will use drones the size of a passenger airplane earlier than an airline.