The Question is: Will RoboLander Fly?
The Answer: Yes, It will Fly Itself (the only question is when)
|1. A. It's becoming obvious that pilots are none too keen about the US and UK "shootdown" policies. They have more or less decided (to a man) on Pprune that the present hijack code would be the last thing they would set. Not only that, but they'd keep quiet about any ruckus on board because they could see any potential Cuba "tourist" (as against "terrorist") leading to them taking a Sidewinder up the Khyber. So that's a poor solution.|
|B. Pilots are also not keen about locked NOR barred doors. It stops them from assisting evacuating passengers and could be lethal in the sort of accident that SAS MD-87 had today at Linate. Isolating pilots from passengers and crew can be seen as "the new anomie".|
|C. Apart from some very vocal redneck types and Duane Woerth (of ALPA), most pilots don't see carrying guns as being in the best interests of anyone and are happy to leave that to the SkyMarshals. However if airline passenger growth ever got back up to normal levels again, the cost of the SkyMarshals would be totally prohibitive (just look at El Al and the published statistics of their Govt-subsidised operation - or do your own sums on the back of an envelope). It just wouldn't fly, not in any deregulated environment. So being 100% reliant upon the SkyMarshal coming to the rescue is a poor long-term solution. BUT PREDOMINANTLY it is also a major disincentive to passengers. You need a built-in layered technology that would simply make aerial terrorism not worthwhile.|
|D. As you can see from the emails that I've been forwarding, they are even confiscating captain's shaving kits. This sort of overreaction, once it dies down, may permit a rational consideration of the longer-term new face of aviation security and safety - which were previously separate concepts, but are now clearly inseparable. RoboLander offers clear advantages for both.|
2. Taking Iridium's seizure of my original idea about telemetry data-linking (of CVR/DFDR/QAR data only 2.5 years after I mounted it on the NET) as an example, most good (but radical) ideas are spoofed or disregarded at the outset - but then become crystal clear when the chips are down and it's so readily apparent what sizeable hits you can take when all your bets are not covered.
|3. Looking at all the
factors that will lead to a perpetuum downturn in air passenger confidence,
they (the industry) desperately need absolutely anything that can restore
passenger confidence. That's why Accenture is briefing SIA execs on
RoboLander. As I said elsewhere, RoboLander is not tomorrow's
solution, but "the day after tomorrow's". You have to look
short, medium and longer term at these type problemo's:
arming pilots (but NOT with stun guns) - so you might refer to that URL:
which raises aircraft FBW safety questions about use of stunguns and TASERS in FBW aircraft
But there is no SURE remedy against  SLEEPERS and IDENTITY THEFT
|4. Compatible and concurrent
technology that is under mature development:
The RoboLander Concept fits in very neatly with FreeFlight, Safe Flight 21, Capstone, ADS-B, JPALS, APALS and all those forthcoming (and already existent) technologies. ADS-B is in fact quite mature (planned introduction to service of 2004/2005).
|5. Raytheon is already doing it (i.e. we have the technology for the underlying premise) - Autoland based upon non-ILS DGPS (see also JPALS and APALS existing technology based upon radar profiling). It was first done in March 1994 . http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20011001/us/remote_pilot_1.html|
|6. Tom Cassidy (CEO of
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc), whose firm makes Predator
and Prowler drones, says the technology is a doddle.
Likewise Teledyne Ryan ( the manufacturers of Global Hawk). That system is capable of both direct line of sight communications with the ground station by a common data link or beyond line of sight through Ku band SATCOM, direct line of sight capability, good support up to 274 megabits per second.
|7. Journo's all over the
world are still demonstrating today just how easy it is to smuggle six-inch
blades on board aircraft.
So when security relaxes again, just how difficult will it be then? And have you seen the IASA page about the non-metallic lethal knives? URL
What about the six-shooter in a plastic cell-phone
(movie is here: http://www.iasa.com.au/folders/images/V161NADL.mpg ) 528kb- suggest download then play.
|8. RoboLander has more to offer than simply an anti-terrorist mode. It covers a number of different dire emergencies (beside being the direction that Bernard Ziegler was always taking Airbus anyway). About 80% of accidents, particularly in landing and take-off are pilot error. Automating recovery via an interface with ADS-B could probably allow more precise ATC but also improve problems presently stemming from dense air-traffic and reduce the number of human error accidents). It would also interface well with the Virgin Bus concept.|
|9. A major objection about how "impossible" it would be to implement it in current technology (non-FBW) aircraft was earlier addressed here. It's a relatively easily soluble obstacle.|
|10. When reflecting upon possible passenger acceptance of an irreversible RoboLander mode (versus its other reversible and pilot-monitored modes) think about the Flt 93 pax (and probably the others as well) who saw their pilots dead on the cabin floor and their fate in the hands of a dedicated "hallowed martyr". I'm sure that they would have seen a RoboLander concept as being a god-send.|
|11. This is the mob Ray
Hudson works for. He designs and proves their airliners automated
flight control systems (auto-land). He says RoboLander can be done.
In fact on Bluecoat, in a fit of pique, he said that they were already
into the Proof of Concept Stage - so do you think that Boeing is really
going to let anyone steal a march?
|12. Perhaps the
biggest obstacle to RoboLander is that people have simply not yet
appreciated the enormity of this new threat dimension. A "hallowed
martyr" has nothing to lose. Even in abject failure his mission
will be a success. He will have frightened away profitability in the
form of those few passengers who make that essential difference. That
bin Laden and Al Qaida will require another aviation atrocity is quite
apparent. That will reinforce the effectiveness of 11 Sep 01 manifold
The alternative proposed "waypoint exclusion" idea does not stop an in-control terrorist from simply crashing the aircraft anyway. If he was to be convinced that an aircraft could irretrievably lose its flight-control to the ground, well he'd probably consider that the risk of failure, capture and looking really stupid would be far too high.
|So why should RoboLander
Well let's see now. Not even sure what "RoboLander Rejected" is based upon here.
I'll try and address some of what I see as the failings and strengths of the submitted proposal below (which may well be seen to be broadly based upon a vague RoboLander idea anyway)
Here's what the aircraft security task force has to say. My commentary in blue
IDEA: Use of Existing Data Link for Uplink of Flight Control Commands
DESCRIPTION: If an aircraft is compromised, provide a system that controls the aircraft from the ground (but be sure to ask the hijacker's permission first if initiating it from the pilot's seat.) The Flight Management Computer (FMC) could be locked, so that the filed flight plan could not be altered (bit of a bummer if the weather turns really lousy at destination, or if there's a nasty systems failure onboard . In another scenario, the FMC could be remotely programmed to fly to the nearest airport and autoland (sounds like a flavour of RoboLander) . Alternatively, the aircraft could be remotely piloted (requiring tens of thousands of pilots on round-the-clock standby and lots of simulation time for them so that they'd have the confidence to do so - it's not like RP'ing an unmanned drone) . Finally, in extreme situations the aircraft could be sacrificed to prevent an attack similar to September 11th. (Yeah right, that's really going to uninspire those missing passengers to return in droves)
Original page of proposals (with four appendices): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/faa/main.html