Droning on about UAVs

Discussion in 'Tanks, planes & ships' started by HE117, Dec 11, 2012.

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  1. This bit from the article makes me go WTF?

    <The use of drones is controversial because of fears that civilians can be killed and injured by them.

    Human rights campaigners claim that civilian deaths resulting from drone strikes constitute a war crime.>

    So civilians never get killed by manned A/C? What the hell is the difference? Or am I missing something here?
  2. No you aren't. there is no difference. Because they are not "unmanned" really. It's just the crew is not in the aircraft. Though one day in the not too distant future I'm sure unmanned aircraft will run on programming alone.
  3. Have to say I'm not too comfortable with that idea.
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  4. The X-47B is itself a step in that direction. No-one actually flies the aircraft from the ground though of course it's systems are monitored and there is a "manual over-ride" so to speak.


  5. RPAS vs UAS - Reaper etc is RPAS (Remotely Piloted Air System), Army UAS (like H450 or the incoming Watchkeeper) are Unmanned Aerial Systems or Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs).

    Their flight plan is programmed in, airspace deconflicted etc and off it goes - the man-"near"-the-loop is controlling the payload, monitoring the air vehicle and ensuring it does what was programmed in.

    It's one of the reasons the big UAS don't fly in the UK yet (Watchkeeper is on a Military Flight Test Permit). People have to be convinced that programming an aeroplane to take off and fly a route and do something if it strays off route, is ok.
  6. Hasn't MOD recently stated that we've lost 450 'drones' in the past five years between accidents, break-downs and lost in action? Seems a lot of hardware in such a timeframe.
  7. Depends whether the MOD said "drone" or if the media did.

    There are varying types of UAS - Reaper operated by RAF - no idea if we've lost any. H450 operated by RA - a couple of losses in its service life (Iraq and Afghanistan). Desert Hawk 3 - hand launched, breaks up on impact, more easily affected by interference etc - have lost a few of these (more than a few in fact...). Tarantula-Hawk - C-IED air vehicle - a couple of them have crashed.

    450 seems a little high, but if you consider the smaller (DH3 and T-Hawk) platforms as Close Support, hand launched (more or less) and front line and the bigger stuff as proper aircraft, then it's easy to see how they could be lost. Compare it to Land Rovers perhaps?

    The stuff isn't cheap, as proved by the latest contract for Black Hornet (not under the same bracket as those above, as they're WAY smaller, not considered aircraft by MAA). BUT, they provide vital imagery in the roles they're in. I can assure you the losses don't go uninvestigated (and not just Service Inquiry, as per the H450 lost in 2011).
  8. I think a good 100 of the losses were due to a single thick-as-shit blonde artillery mong on H15 who spent her afternoons smashing her toys in to the Hesco.
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  9. I'm afraid you are quite, quite wrong. Although if you've been talking to Gunners it's not your fault, their almost wilful inability to understand that shouting and PowerPoint do not make it so have held back UK Army UAVs for decades. And if anything hands it all over to the RAF, they will if they **** up suitably extravagantly. But I digress.

    You can fly anything you like in danger areas in the UK - ie ranges - as long as you have a system to reliably terminate flight to keep the system (or parts thereof) within the range boundary. See guided missile tests at Aberporth, for instance.

    Or if your system is suitably reliable that you can trust it to keep within the lines set by the suitably qualified crew you can fly stuff without a termination system on a range, eg WK over Salisbury Plain. Suitable being defined by the MAA using powers delegated by the CAA who in turn are now looked after by EASA.

    Small stuff - eg DH3 - can be flown using the same rules as people flying similarly sized model aircraft.

    If your system gets a C of A and you can convince EASA via the MAA/CAA route that you know what you're doing then you can fly stuff in pre-defined airspace already cleared of other air users - eg WK and that box on the side of Salisbury Plain to let the WK SAR get exercised. The point of the C of A being to show that your system is at least as safe as the equivalent manned ac in terms of falling out of the sky due to some physical failure, and the cleared airspace to make sure you don't bump into anything as you can't see where you're going.

    To go beyond that in European skies - there's the next challenge. What seems to be emerging as a concensus post Astraea is that the next step will involve bolting on a sense and avoid package to your vehicle and showing that it is as good at avoiding other air users as the equivalent manned vehicle - that word "equivalence" again ...

    It will come in time, I have no doubt. Not least because a certified unit would be an easy sell onto some civvy aircraft as a boost to their safety. Equivalence again.

    However, equivalence also means that to stooge around in airspace sharing it with manned traffic on a routine basis your system needs to be run by crew who can demonstrate an equivalent level of competence to the manned ac pilot. Because if your system does stray the person in charge will be prosecuted just as the pilot of a manned ac would.

    Full autonomy for vehicles in normal civvy airspace is a lot, lot further away. And will arrive at the same time as aircraft full of people can fly without a pilot - when they say equivalence, they're not kidding.

    Another wrinkle is that you can't go single engined over major urban areas - look at CIVPOL helos, all twins for a reason. So WK will be limited even with a SAA package, and uncannily all European MALE airframes being offered for development today are twins.

    Now a cruise missile is already an autonomous vehicle and gets round the rules by clearly being a weapon and only being used in a shooting war. In peacetime, well if you've seen the tests they tend to have a termination package and a chase aircraft with a bloke holding the switch following it round.

    And of course if you're in the arse end of nowhere like AFG where your side controls the airspace you can do exactly what you like. Ditto if your govt writes a blank cheque to cover some disaster, major event or so on.
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  10. You're not missing anything. They're retards.

    I reckon the US Navy drones will go mad after being struck by lightning, and then try and attack Russia. On the plus side I get to see Jessica Biel's lovely arse on one of those inflatable balls that clutter up the PTI's store but are only ever used by Pad Wives.

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  11. One of the strange - I over simplified and apologise if I misled. Fact is we can't fly anything we want in restricted airspace, because we can't always make what we want do what we want. WK isn't type certified yet and the MAA are looking into it, but there is a lot if backwards and forwards motion over what it can do and where, especially given where it will operate from to fly over SPTA. Yes, smaller stuff can be flow. Over range areas, no problems.

    I agree with the equivalence bit and where we go in the future, the issue (from my perspective) seems to be the regulators not quite knowing a) what they're regulating so b) how to regulate it. It's making progress on WK slow, and WK seems to be being put forwards as a trailblazer (scary amounts of extra pressure).

    Sorry again for over simplifying my response, I am but a lowly Gunner, slowly being bludgeoned into something that grasps airworthiness issues!
  12. Fair enough, as you might be able to tell I used to do some of this as a day job and need regrettably little excuse to put my pedant hat on.

    The trouble you have is that the regulators aren't there to define a solution, they are there to say yes or no to any proposal. And as things go straight to EASA these days you're looking to find a European solution, not merely UK. I know there are SAA projects on the go out there, but I'm not up to date on where they are. Hopefully you are, and ideally are looking to fly some trial sensors on WK as soon as you can. That said, my pragmatic side thinks that in-service UAV SAA will follow on from a SAA fit for manned ac as an enhancement. After all, that's a much larger market.

    More seriously though, if you have any responsibility for airworthiness - particularly any form of signature - you'd better have it all squared away before anything gets airborne. Doubly so if you have a signature. Because it is your arse on the line, regardless of anything anyone else may tell you to do. The RAF make a point of educating their responsible people that it is their duty to head off stupid requests, no matter the rank of the requestor. If the RA haven't got to that point yet my spidey sense would be tingling, were I in your shoes.
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  13. Fear not - I (hopefully) will not be held responsible for anything...

    It's frustrating that the whole gambit seems to be chasing shadows, running in circles and downright obstructing progress at times - it benefits everyone to get a move on, but it seems to have been given a stiff ignoring until nearly too late. Not the first programme I've seen treated in this way.

  14. An interesting thread. A lot of very clever people are working hard to develop an SAA system that will satisfy the CAA, however, having worked as an RAF ATCO for 40+ years, including time in Directorate of Airspace Policy department of the CAA, from everything I've read there's a long, long way to go before a system is likely to be accepted. To be acceptable to civil ATCOs, a SAA system on a UAV would have to demonstrate almost perfect performance in a highly complex, variable environment. So don't hold your breath, unless I'm much mistaken, UAVs will be confined to Ranges/Danger Areas for a long time yet.