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Unmanned Aircraft Crosses the Atlantic

Foxbat

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#1
Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) Protector crossed the Atlantic Ocean from North Dakota to Gloucestershire in just over 20 hours. It's the first time a craft of this nature has accomplished such a thing and the first time a craft has entered UK airspace under beyond line-of-sight communication control.

The Protector RG Mk1 is due to enter service with the UK as lead customer in the early 2020s.

Protector unmanned aircraft makes solo trans-Atlantic flight
 

Foxbat

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#3
I'm not sure I understand people being scared by this. Why is it that a pilot flying a plane full of bombs is less scary than a pilot sitting in front of a screen flying a drone full of bombs? Both can kill but in one, the pilot is not put at risk. Given the wringing of hands that goes on when the West gets involved in a stramash, loses a plane and then the pilot appears on TV to be humiliated and has probably been tortured before hand (as in the case of the Tornado pilots in the Gulf War), I just don't get it.:confused:
 
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#4
I'm not sure I understand people being scared by this. ... etc. :confused:
Perhaps it is because of the same argument that has been made about 'behind the line officers,' firearms, aircraft, bombs, rockets, missiles, etc.. It's one more step detached. It is no longer (now) a man sitting in a bomber having to push the release button. As detached as that is, it hardly compares to a man 3,000-miles away looking at a video screen that does the same thing, or worse.

Some drones as we speak actually hunt and kill autonomously. Meaning, the act of killing another human is even more detached. Simply someone writing a bit of code, and that is the end of it for them as in the years to follow that code hunts and kills ??? many.

There is a point to 'forcing' people who insist upon killing to do so face to face, up close and personal. Better still, forcing those who do the real killing (the ones giving the orders) to have to do it. It becomes too easy otherwise, and to wash one's hands of all guilt.

K2
 

Vertigo

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#5
I'm not sure I understand people being scared by this. Why is it that a pilot flying a plane full of bombs is less scary than a pilot sitting in front of a screen flying a drone full of bombs? Both can kill but in one, the pilot is not put at risk. Given the wringing of hands that goes on when the West gets involved in a stramash, loses a plane and then the pilot appears on TV to be humiliated and has probably been tortured before hand (as in the case of the Tornado pilots in the Gulf War), I just don't get it.:confused:
I'm with you; most aircraft nowadays can pretty much fly themselves anyway, including the hard bits of landing and taking off. When an aircraft is landing in the fog now I believe the pilot is pretty much hands off.

I also think the remote pilot probably makes military craft rather safer from the civilian point of view. If a bomber is being attacked, either from the air or the ground and the pilot should panic they are liable to just drop their bombs wherever they happen to be, never mind if that happens to be over a densely populated city, whereas a remote pilot has little to fear apart from the ire of his/her commanding officer, making it less likely they'll just dump their load of bombs on a bunch of unsuspecting civilians.
 
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#6
...making it less likely they'll just dump their load of bombs on a bunch of unsuspecting civilians.
Or perhaps, more likely. It takes little imagination to see where all morality can go right out the window with such technology (and others long existing). I get your all's point about the pilot not having to fear their own death... Just like all things however, it is a double edged sword.

K2
 

Vertigo

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#7
Or perhaps, more likely. It takes little imagination to see where all morality can go right out the window with such technology (and others long existing). I get your all's point about the pilot not having to fear their own death... Just like all things however, it is a double edged sword.

K2
I think it's necessary to draw a distinction between an unmanned assassination machine which I do feel to be morally dubious, to say the least, and an unmanned bomber. A bomber pilot is not going to suddenly have a moral crisis before releasing their bombs; being as up close to the target as they can be will not change their mind; they have orders to drop their bombs in place x and will do all they can to do so. This is no different to what an unmanned bomber will do except the latter is not vulnerable to fear-of-death induced panic. Which is probably a good thing.
 
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#8
@Vertigo ; though I see your point, I'm not exactly speaking in specifics. The aversion to such autonomous machines that can be used for war, is that it is simply one more step detached. Let me pose this to you;

When is it time to evaluate a nations justification/morality for fighting a war? 'When massive numbers of their own people are lost... or when their side alone, does not lose a single one?'

K2
 

Brian G Turner

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#9
Why is it that a pilot flying a plane full of bombs is less scary than a pilot sitting in front of a screen flying a drone full of bombs?
It's not so much scary as much as chilling, as per K2's reply:

It's one more step detached.
There's also the point that human agency can help stop things going wrong. While that's definitely not a 100% failsafe (cf Malaysia Airlines), there's too much real world experience of computer failures to imagine flying bombs remotely makes the world safer for everybody.

Just saying. :)
 

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#10
@Vertigo ; though I see your point, I'm not exactly speaking in specifics. The aversion to such autonomous machines that can be used for war, is that it is simply one more step detached. Let me pose this to you;

When is it time to evaluate a nations justification/morality for fighting a war? 'When massive numbers of their own people are lost... or when their side alone, does not lose a single one?'

K2
But it's not autonomous. It needs a fully qualified pilot to operate it.

On Brian's point of computer failure. - the F35 has a pilot but is effectively computer controlled. In fact most advanced passenger aircraft rely heavily on computers. They all would also be prone to such a failure so anybody fearing this should never get into a plane (I don't fly unless I absolutely have no other choice).

On the justification/morality point: In the first Gulf War 147 allied personnel were killed by the result of enemy action (292 killed in total). Compare this to Iraqi casualty estimates of 25,000 to 50,000 killed, 75,000 wounded and 80,000 captured. It seems to me that what you pose was as near as dammit in existence long before the advent of unmanned aircraft.
 
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Vertigo

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#11
And it's not a problem for flying people? [Sorry Foxbat got in first - this is a reference to @Brian G Turner comment on computer failures and flying bombs.]

Sorry I have a problem with that; all modern aircraft are now fly by wire. The pilot is not directly connected to the control of the aircraft - all control is through computers. They have multiple redundancies (as will the drones) but if all the computers fail the aircraft crashes. Whether it's people aboard or bombs.

On the remoteness; good or bad, I think we've long since gone past that particular issue. Yes we still have boots on the ground but an awful lot of warfare is now conducted by missiles, small and large, launched from a few miles away to a few hundred to a few thousand. I really don't see this drone making a significant difference to that.
 
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#14
But it's not autonomous. It needs a fully qualified pilot to operate it.
Perhaps the one above, yet Predator & Reaper B's have fully autonomous capabilities, as do many others, and they have for some time been put into such missions. Literally, program their mission and cut them loose. They decide if something meets the target criteria, and then they kill it.

Here is an outdated, (though actually naïve) article from NATO Review: Autonomous military drones: no longer science fiction

K2
 

Foxbat

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#15
Perhaps the one above, yet Predator & Reaper B's have fully autonomous capabilities, as do many others, and they have for some time been put into such missions. Literally, program their mission and cut them loose. They decide if something meets the target criteria, and then they kill it.

Here is an outdated, (though actually naïve) article from NATO Review: Autonomous military drones: no longer science fiction

K2
Thanks for the link. Makes interesting reading.
 

Brian G Turner

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#17
Indeed, modern aircraft are heavily computerized - but I presume the human pilot is there for a good reason. :)

I'm not railing against unmanned technology - as pointed out, we've had it for some time, whether in drones or even driverless cars. It just makes me uncomfortable the more technology takes away direct human control.

(One day driverless electric cars will probably be the norm, and I'll be one of those old fuddy-duddies refusing to get in one. :D )
 

Vertigo

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#18
Indeed, modern aircraft are heavily computerized - but I presume the human pilot is there for a good reason. :)

I'm not railing against unmanned technology - as pointed out, we've had it for some time, whether in drones or even driverless cars. It just makes me uncomfortable the more technology takes away direct human control.

(One day driverless electric cars will probably be the norm, and I'll be one of those old fuddy-duddies refusing to get in one. :D )
My point was there are now computers between the pilot and the actual aircraft control surfaces there is no direct connection. If those computers fail the pilot is completely powerless; they simply no longer include any manual connection to the control surfaces of the aircraft. So yes the pilots are still there for a purpose but that purpose is at least heading towards being solely to reassure the passengers. If the control computer(s) fails they are going down. So even manned aircraft are now totally dependant on the non-failure of their computers.

To be fair pilots fail more often than those control computers.
 

Brian G Turner

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#19
We've been on at least one flight before now where we've been told that the navigation computer had failed and the pilot was relying on an iPad instead for the flight plan - presumably not Google Maps, though. :)
 

Vertigo

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#20
We've been on at least one flight before now where we've been told that the navigation computer had failed and the pilot was relying on an iPad instead for the flight plan - presumably not Google Maps, though. :)
Just pray the control computers don't fail, though as I say they are usually set up with a minimum triple redundancy (at least the Typhoon has triple redundancy and I doubt civilian ones would have less).
 

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