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Making Drone Aircraft Smarter

The US Air Force has decided that its unmanned drone aircraft could be smarter than they are now. In particular, they would like drones to be able to take off and land autonomously even on crowded runways.

On Tuesday, the Air Force Research Laboratory at Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base said it’ll soon solicit engineers to design an algorithm to allow drones to “integrate seamlessly” with piloted planes for takeoff and landing. In the algorithm-driven future that the labs want to build, drones will be equipped a database of terminal procedures; link up with Air Traffic Control; and “recognize the intent of other aircraft...”

There’s a fair amount of information to rapidly process in order to avoid collisions and other accidents. Pilots can handle that information load. Drones can’t.

“The developed algorithm(s), optimally, would require no more a priori information than a human pilot,” the labs instruct. “Intent analysis should be accurate, reliable and real-time, enabling quick and appropriate decisions that are necessary in this time critical environment.”

On the other hand, you could try giving the plane the brains of a pilot. Literally. In his 1999 novel Starfish, sf author Peter Watts describes what he calls "head cheese":

The Pacific Ocean slopped two kilometers under his feet. He had a cargo of blank-eyed psychotics sitting behind him. And the lifter was being piloted by a large pizza with extra cheese...

Ray had been in this very cockpit, watching the pizza being installed and no doubt wondering when the term "job security" had become an oxymoron... The techs were playing with a square vanilla box, half a meter on a side and about twice as thick as Kita's wrist.

Humans had always been able to integrate 3-D spatial information better than the machines that kept trying to replace them...

Until now, apparently...

"It's one of those smart gels," Ray said at last... "Head cheese. Cultured brains on a slab. The same things they've been plugging into the Net to firewall infections."
(Read more about Watts head cheese)

Autonomously navigate these links for more drone aircraft stories:

From Wired via Frolix_8

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/24/2010)

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