Current Event 1- Biology 1 Honors
Markoff, John. "Planes Without Pilots." The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Apr. 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
“Planes without Pilots” stated that advances in aircraft technology will eventually lead to planes being controlled by automated robots. After the Germanwings crash, people are asking if airplanes would be safer if human co-pilots were eliminated. Even though most of the plane is computerized already, substituting a robot for a co-pilot would lower the risk of malfunctions on a flight.
The process of embedding automated piloting software has been approved by the Pentagon, and has been used to fight Islamic terrorists. This software has saved a great deal of pilots and planes from being destroyed. The Pentagon, and with the help of Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (Alias), is currently planning to create its first robot that will operate as a co-pilot.
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (Darpe) has been trying to design the robot with three contesting companies to build and design it. The characteristics of the robot will include listening, speaking, being able to help in emergencies, and be “visually aware” of its surroundings. By using human equipment on aircraft, the robot will also be able to take control of the flight.
Others, including NASA, have been proposing new ideas such as replacing the co-pilot on multiple aircrafts and using one operator for all of them. They also started to implant an automation software called Terminal Sequencing and Spacing for the United States’s air traffic control. They would use this instead of traffic controllers. This new system would prevent the likelihood of aircrafts crashing, and would keep all the airplanes at a moderate speed, and aid the congestion of airplanes currently flying.
But, Mary Cummings, Duke University’s director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory states, “You need humans where you have humans.” Although she agrees that automated robots will enhance air and space technology, some people would be skeptical about the idea of not having an actual person control the plane. Robots are not infallible.
This article has a major influence on the world of traveling. If we exchanged co-pilots and air traffic controllers for robots and drones, many jobs would be at stake. Yes, the robots would most likely not make any technical errors and could be inexpensive, but as Mary Cummings stated in the article “A pilot on board an aircraft can see, feel, smell or hear many indications of an impending problem and begin to formulate a course of action before even sophisticated sensors and indicators provide positive indications of trouble.”
The last sentence of this article states, “If you put more technology in the cockpit, you have more technology that can fail.” I agree with this statement, yet the author of this article had not touched upon the potential for hackers to infiltrate the computer software of major airline companies that would have their planes manned by robots. The possibility for intentional catastrophes is very likely, especially having listened to the news this week about terrorists hacking into “highly secure” French TV stations. Nevertheless, I felt that the flow of the article was good and I learned great deal about the possible future of flying. Even though planes are mostly automated, I would rather have a pilot on board.