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jedi

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@Victor Bravo.......The real issue (and I'm still trying to get the answer) revolves around the drones that the FAA has approved for part 135 use. My main question about them is this: what did those companies have to do w/regard to the drone design, to get them approved for FAA use? Did they have the drone airframe go through the same process that piloted aircraft go through to become FAA certified? That seems unlikely, but again, I don't know that much about that.
Let me know where I'm wrong...
If, hypothetically, you could get mid-range cargo aircraft approved by the FAA via the same process that those drones did, that means the cost to build and/or certify the aircraft would be a lot cheaper than what you are paying when you buy a Cessna or Piper. You could essentially fly cargo in experimentals, and I'm sure we're all aware of the cost difference between the two aircraft. And that would be cheaper than a pilot in a FAA certified airframe.
...........
Does that make sense? I'm kind of saying if you could get an easier review process for automated experimentals to haul cargo, it would be a lot cheaper and transformative.
Let me know where I'm wrong...
I do not think the FAA has approved any UAV (Drone) Part 135 operations. The 55 pound limit is an extension of the AMA radio control authorization and that has not set well with the AMA as they lost a lot of their flight authority with the new regulations.

The lack of FAA approval is why much of the flight testing has been done outside the USA and why Amazon and the like are dragging their feet on the drone delivery programs.

You asked "Let me know where I'm wrong..."
You assume that there is an easy way to please the FAA.
 
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blane.c

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We used to say about 727's "three whiners in the back, three whiners in the front". It is easy to understand the sentiment to get rid of the pilots. When it comes to medium haul planes going to a myriad of destinations who is going to load/unload the plane? Fuel and service the plane? From experience doing that kind of flying it is the flight crew that is expected to handle those duties, that computer better get in the weight room.
 

rv7charlie

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Like everyone else, you can make your small fortune in aviation today, as long as you have a large one to invest.

If I weren't so lazy, at this point I'd link an article showing something like this, but instead, I'll just say that the stuff is coming, whether we think it makes sense or not.

To the issue of the FAA, freight/experimentals/etc: *that* one I seriously doubt will happen any time soon, for the reasons you intuitively hit on. They do use a bit of a 'sliding scale' for approvals, weighing risk/benefit. You can get away with almost anything in building/flying a homebuilt, but you can't *rent* one, even for personal use. You can rent a type-cert a/c, but you can't use it for hauling people or freight for pay, without jumping a bunch more regulatory hoops, maintenance schedules, etc. Etc Etc, up the food chain.

I don't think FAA has approved any commercial drone operations (except gov/military) beyond line-of-sight, yet, but it will come. It's worth noting that the current drone regs came about not because of software, but 'wetware'; the idiotic *people* running the joysticks.

As to the cost of pilots, all you need to do to understand the corporate motivation to move toward unmanned (or manned monitoring only, in the near term) is to look at, well, just about any large scale operation. Robots show up (or never leave), only have to be trained once, don't get bored and inattentive, don't require vacations and very rarely need 'sick' leave (only a few of a very long list of advantages), unlike humans. A decade ago, an American car had about 30 hrs of human labor in it. I suspect it's half that today, for all the above reasons. The higher the skill level required, the harder it is to ensure continuous staffing, day to day. If a burger flipper takes a sick day, it's relatively simple to plug in another burger flipper, but still expensive to have a spare on tap that's been through your vetting process and is covered by your liability ins. If a pilot sicks out at the last minute....
 

rv7charlie

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We used to say about 727's "three whiners in the back, three whiners in the front". It is easy to understand the sentiment to get rid of the pilots. When it comes to medium haul planes going to a myriad of destinations who is going to load/unload the plane? Fuel and service the plane? From experience doing that kind of flying it is the flight crew that is expected to handle those duties, that computer better get in the weight room.
That kinda makes the point of what I just typed. When the highly trained (and paid) flight crew is no longer slinging boxes, you can use relatively untrained (and relatively poorly paid) muscle to sling the boxes. Often the same ones that handle them from the moment they left the plane, anyway.
 

Brünner

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nschmandt, if you were referring to 100-400 mile cargo and passenger routes, then the aircraft for this mission will certainly have enough load-carrying capacity to put a pilot seat in it.

In that type of a case, what is the dis-advantage of having a commercial human pilot on board?
Less payload/fuel to be carried. Granted it ain't much, but still.
 

Victor Bravo

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Less payload/fuel to be carried. Granted it ain't much, but still.
Yes, exactly. To gain even a fairly a small amount of payload, corporate bean-counters will be all too willing to sacrifice whatever extra measure of safety or human cognitive ability or decision-making ability, no matter if it might save an accident from happening.
 

Brünner

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Yes, exactly. To gain even a fairly a small amount of payload, corporate bean-counters will be all too willing to sacrifice whatever extra measure of safety or human cognitive ability or decision-making ability, no matter if it might save an accident from happening.
I don't think safety will be sacrificed. The plane won't fly itself, there will be an operator on the ground doing all the piloting and taking decisions regarding the best course of action should a situation arise.
Safety might even be improved if another operator takes over at the end of the shift of the current one, which means no longer pilot fatigue, circadian rhythms messed up and so on.
At least that's how I understand this whole setup, please correct me if I got it wrong.

The payload gain will be small, but don't forget that it will be cumulative over many flights, so obviously FedEx will want it.
 

blane.c

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I don't think safety will be sacrificed. The plane won't fly itself, there will be an operator on the ground doing all the piloting and taking decisions regarding the best course of action should a situation arise.
Safety might even be improved if another operator takes over at the end of the shift of the current one, which means no longer pilot fatigue, circadian rhythms messed up and so on.
At least that's how I understand this whole setup, please correct me if I got it wrong.

The payload gain will be small, but don't forget that it will be cumulative over many flights, so obviously FedEx will want it.
What is going to likely happen is one person will be in charge of several aircraft @ various stages of flight which is cool when everything is fine or there is a problem with one aircraft, when multiple aircraft have problems and no one to help with the extra work load is when catastrophe will rear it's ugly head.
 

rv7charlie

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I suspect that payload percentage will be bigger than you might think, and that's only one of many factors. Think about the freight companies, and how they get volume from hubs to small city/rural distribution points. My old flight instructor flew Beech 18s for a company that did this work for UPS, among other missions. Typical flight was 1-2 hrs, with 3000 lbs of freight. Sorting/transfer from the transport category a/c to the Beech might happen on a major airport, but at the destination, the volume transfers to a truck, which hauls to the shipper's off-site depot, where it's then sorted and loaded onto delivery vans. Now, take another look at the Pipistrel concept. What if that last air leg not only didn't need a pilot, but could land at the local depot instead of the local airport, miles from the depot? Multiply that by thousands of trips around the country each day. Then consider that there's no pilot downtime if the plane waits there for the afternoon return load. Or in areas with adequate volume, takes a load direct to a destination overnight, removing that volume from the hub/spoke system.

I keep coming back to us accepting what we're accustomed to, and rejecting the unfamiliar/new. Anybody distrust the HVAC system and thermostat in your house? Or the fuel/ignition controller in your car? My Grandmother's house had an oil-fired heater sitting in the central room of the house, with a manually controlled valve and flue damper. Their 1st car had manual mixture (which, unfortunately, many of *us* still have to jerk with in our planes), *and* a manual spark advance/retard. (And a 'manual' starter.) And a lot of people distrusted cars, period. Your mule could find its own way back home, if you got separated for some reason....
 

Pops

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And if you drank to much on a sat night, someone would load you on your horse and you will find yourself home and in the barn. I have "Reloaded" people on there horses many times. Mostly cousins of mine.
 

dave wolfe

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I personally view fully automated aircraft as the antithesis if general aviation. General aviation involves a love of flying, or a personal need for long distance transportation and the willingness to take on the piloting task. It involves buying or arranging use of an aircraft and operational control of it.

At the small end of the scale I see automated aircraft being operated entities offering charters or deep pocketed corporate flight departments. The ownership costs are going to be prohibitive for the average Bonanza owner. So from a passenger peerspective it wont be 'general aviation' but rather just buying a charter flight for about the same cost as available today.
 

Turd Ferguson

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Obviously automation is coming whether sooner or later, how can it help us?
"automation" or what the FAA calls automation has been here for decades.
The discussion about autonomous flight or what the FAA calls UAS, or UAS with human payload is somewhat interesting. The latter is not likely to happen anytime soon.
 

Brünner

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What is going to likely happen is one person will be in charge of several aircraft @ various stages of flight which is cool when everything is fine or there is a problem with one aircraft, when multiple aircraft have problems and no one to help with the extra work load is when catastrophe will rear it's ugly head.
I suspect the regulator will probably have something to say about that.
 

Victor Bravo

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RV7charlie is absolutely correct about the added efficiency of the cargo aircraft being able to eliminate some of the stops and processes between a hub and the local distribution point. That is indeed a large efficiency jump. I have very little problem with that, other than the loss of jobs in the supply chain.

The rationale for throwing the pilot out of the aircraft, and putting him or her in a control room 500 miles away, is what bothers me, whether the aircraft is VTOL capable or not.

It is a lot harder for someone to get a human pilot to intentionally make a fatal mistake than it is to find a computer hacker who can cause a data system to fail. Movies like Thunderball and The Manchurian Candidate, and a handful of real-world instances like 9-11, show that this is sadly possible. But compare these few examples to how many times computer systems have been hacked to do harm. We live in an era where data hacks, browser hijacks, malware, ransomware, etc. exists in a large scale. And some 15 year old punk in Indonesia can do it with very little consequence.

If you think that industry or government can prevent it, pick up yesterday's newspaper and read the part about what has just happened at the highest !($#*$% levels of our defense infrastructure.

If computer systems can honestly be trusted to that degree, how come the keys to the firing buttons in NORAD, and the codes in the President's briefcase, are in the hands of human beings?

On the other hand... :)

 

Turd Ferguson

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Sorting/transfer from the transport category a/c to the Beech might happen on a major airport, but at the destination, the volume transfers to a truck, which hauls to the shipper's off-site depot, where it's then sorted and loaded onto delivery vans.
I'd say in that scenario the daily route delivery van is in greatest jeopardy of being eliminated. That's where a package drone will be used to drop the delivery on customers doorstep and shuttle back to the local fulfillment center for reload and subsequent deliveries. They will be running at a couple hundred feet altitude on a pre-programmed virtual routing to avoid conflicts. No traffic jams, no courier throwing your plasma monitor, no lunch breaks, no dog bites, no wheeled motor vehicle, etc. That portion of the delivery will essentially be pennies of the total cost.
 
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