WASHINTON : The Pentagon’s research agency tasked with developing breakthrough technologies for national security has come up with a plan to replace flight crews with “full-time” robots and turn the pilot into a high-level “mission supervisor” issuing commands through a touch screen, according to a media report.
The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is currently working on technology that will be able to replace up to five crew members on military aircraft, in effect making the lone human operator a “mission supervisor”, tech magazine Wired reported. The Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) would offer the military a “tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would enable the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft to enable operation with reduced onboard crew,” DARPA said.
“Our goal is to design and develop a full-time automated assistant that could be rapidly adapted to help operate diverse aircraft through an easy-to-use operator interface,” Daniel Patt, DARPA program manager, was quoted as saying by The Washington Times.
“These capabilities could help transform the role of pilot from a systems operator to a mission supervisor directing intermeshed, trusted, reliable systems at a high level,” he said.
DARPA plans to build on the advances in autopilot technology over the past 50 years and develop a highly adaptable automated system that can move from aircraft to aircraft and execute missions from takeoff to landing — all from a simple touch and voice recognition interface.
Allowing ALIAS to handle lower-level flight maintenance tasks would free human operators to focus on mission-level tasks, according to DARPA.
In outlining the Pentagon’s budget in February, Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel expressed his intent to shrink the department’s budget to pre-World War II levels by reducing personnel and expensive equipment costs in preference for cost-saving technology.