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 Airliner flown 'without pilot' in UAV test

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Date posted: 06/12/2006

The UK MoD is conducting tests to determine if flying uncrewed aircraft in squadrons by remote control is feasible.

On the 30th of October 2006, the MoD conducted a two-hour flight over Devon and Cornwall with an ageing BAC 1-11 ? a 1960s era 100-seat twin-engine jetliner. The plane did have a crew in the cockpit, however, they were under strict instructions that, once in the air, they were not to touch the controls unless it was an emergency.

The goal was to see if a fighter pilot could control several other planes in their formation from the cockpit of their own fighter, reducing the number of pilots to send on a mission. So, the BAC 1-11 and several purely virtual aircraft, was flown semi-remotely.

A system called the UAV Command and Control Interface (UAVCCI), was fitted to the plane, to allow remote control.

Under civil aviation law, the pilot controlling the jetliner still had to be on board the aircraft. But he sat at the back of the plane using only the UAVCCI to control the large jet, along with four computer-simulated UAVs on a virtual attack mission.

The UAVCCI uses software agents to control each aircraft under its command, minimising the pilot's workload. This makes each of the UAVs semi-autonomous: they fly straight and level on their own and can be given simple orders using a point-and-click interface.

The pilot only had to give top level instructions to the UAVs on where to go and what weapons to use, not fly them minute-by-minute.

See the full Story via external site: www.newscientisttech.com

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