I am writing an essay in my instrument ground school on why self-flying Caravan aircraft would be an issue for IFR flight. I already know that I will discuss how flying requires a human because of many different reasons. However, I would like to discuss just a little bit more. Please help. I was thinking fed ex’s idea of flying self-flying caravans would be dangerous because the planes won’t be able to identify fixes with today’s technology? Any other ideas to add to my paper?
In truth they absolutely have technology that can recognize fixes and in general do a fine job of not only flying but navigating as well. The real problem (as I see it) is the reliability of systems and their parameters. As an example I used to fly the A330 which has an excellent autoland system. The issue is if any single component of the auto flight system, the ILS, or the winds exceed the limits it doesn’t work. If you expand that to an entire flight there are simply too many areas of concern. Introduce a pilot or 2 into the system and now you’ve got some options.
A modern airplane can easily self identify a fix. A self flying airplane is not really that far out of the question, the military has drones flying all the time. The issue comes with them interacting with other airplanes, being able to respond quickly to situations and flying over populated areas. The military also has a rather high loss rate for the drones, that simply will not work within the confines of populated areas.
I think a big limitation of automated aircraft is when things go wrong. When systems fail, when engines fail or when an onboard emergency happens. All those situations are out of the norm from a regular flight but still happen. All situations that ever could happen couldn’t be anticipated and programmed. There comes a time when the system can no longer handle the situation and a pilots decision making and judgement is the difference between a successful outcome or not.
Thank you! Your responses all gave me some more ideas. Except my only question is do we currently have the technology for Caravans to communicate automatically to ATC?
No, we do not have that for any airplane.
Yeah I don’t see self flying planes as a practical solution. ATC has a difficult time as it is trying to manage VFR and IFR traffic in the terminal environment. Can you image how much harder it would be to keep VFR traffic separated from a pilotless aircraft? Pilots operating under VFR are under no obligation to talk to ATC unless they’re in airspace that requires them to be.
Even though the technology exists for pilotless aircraft, I think the entire system would also need to be changed to accommodate a pilotless operation and I just don’t see that happening because there’s nothing to stop someone from flying their GA aircraft in uncontrolled airspace right through an arrival, approach, or departure path.