Point Click Kill

MQ-8B Fire Scout

Last August, I highlighted a helo drone gone awol in DC restricted airspace, a scenario that should strike fear in the most devoted UAV proponents. Nonetheless, UAV’s are here to stay. They’re much less expensive then manned systems with long loiter times. This one has seven hours.  
I thought a  helo drone was intended only for recon when it was introduced years ago with a payload of 200 pounds. That’s not much. The MQ-8B Fire Scout can bring hellfire and brimstone to a neighborhood near you. Or at least to a bad guys hideout. It’s pretty small with VTOL capability which is mighty handy in tight spots. Those pods carry the fire-and-forget AGM-114 Hellfire missiles,, the laser/GPS-guided GBU-44/B Viper Strike missile, and the rather cheerfully named Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. When the Navy decided it wasn’t for them, Army jumped all over it since attack helicopters are very much an Army thing. Once the Army committed, the Navy reconsidered and now both service braches will fly it.

Flights of the Army variant take place this month. Another addition to the growing arsenal of unmanned vehicles, a trend that shows no sign of abating. Makes you wonder about the future role of manned vehicles whether it fixed or rotary wing.

Will it evolve to commercial activites? What happens when your engine sucks in a flight of sea birds as happened to Chesley Sullenberger? Who or what will tell the aircraft that the safest/ best place to land is the Hudson River?

h/t to Ed for the photo
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6 responses to “Point Click Kill

  1. You won’t catch me on one, that’s for sure. Also Aviatrix wisely pointed out – if there is only one pilot on board, and he/she is relatively low time, how are they supposed to learn? At present airline pilots learn from each other, and the FO (usually) has the most to learn. How can one safely make mistakes in that environment, or discover all those hidden secrets in the cockpit, without another pair of human eyes?

    Through my professional experience working with robots and automation, they are much quicker and more accurate than humans and never sleep. But they cope very poorly with change, and fail when meeting the unexpected.

    How can one explain this to an airline executive with an MBA and no ATP?

    • If someone told me that they’re actually developing drones to land on a carrier I’d never would’ve believed it. Now there’s the X47B.

      I’d never want to board an unmanned plane yet I easily board an unmanned monorail transport when I fly through Atlanta, Orlando or Chicago. The large jets have self landing systems that function perfectly.

      After the Quantas / P&W engine explosion (pilot saved the aircraft) everyone should be convinced that computers are not up to the challenge. Not yet anyway.

  2. The airlines ll be THE FIRST to go no pilot–even before the services–starting with FEDEX/UPS–mainly for the salary/fringe-benefit/pension savings and the savings of fuel load on long-haul flts with regular, known, easily profiled/programmed routes and dedicated runways/approach systems. Pax will be next–again because of routinized operations/routes. IMO the suis generis nature of the services ops means pax in unmanned will be last implemented–if ever.

  3. Remember folks. You heard it here first.
    If it works for the cargo dogs it’s a short leap to hauling passengers. I’m inclined to agree with you VX.
    The big difference is that if you use an unmanned monorail, you can always disembark if it malfunctions. A little more difficult from 30,000 feet.

  4. PS: I just remembered: As usual, Sci-Fi was already there. Remember the 1955 movie “This Island Earth?” Where a scientist gets a Fed-Ex/UPS -like delivery of a lab part out of the blue w. specs to build a devise and order-sheet for the rest of the parts that turns out to be an inverted triangle TV device aliens use to communicate? And he is directed by them to a remote airport to join other hand-picked scientists for a special project on Earth where he is picked up to be flown there by a pilot-less DC-3? You ought to rent the movie just for the Dc-3 effects alone–it’s worth it. All 50s hokey by today’s standards, but not a bad flic–especially the beginning.

    • Remember the movie? I didn’t know it existed. I never cease to be amazed at the list of arcane books and movies you have in your mental repository. But if it comes VX recommended, I’ll put it into my Netflix cue.

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