Saturday, August 20, 2011

Last call for Mr Robotto your flight is boarding

The flight has now closed, can all passengers put their packages back in their ports.

The world’s first airport for unmanned aircraft is opening in Wales. But due to logistic reasons, officials have decided to just build one on land. The West Wales Airport in Aberporth, real place, has dedicated 500 miles of airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in an effort to encourage firms “who are currently banned from testing in the US except in restricted airspace”. There has been lots of interest from a company called Cyberdyne Systems developing a new AI product called Skynet; it looks promising.

The Welsh Government especially is hoping that the new classification will create and develop local industries in Wales not related to sheep and bogs for a change. They are calling this the first step to getting human and robot piloted craft together in the same airspace. The aerial-racial segregation has ended.

The US, who are keen to not let a good thing go by, said in reply that “it will have its new rules for testing UAVs in commercial airspace out by 2025”; well past Judgement Day.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or Fuck All Allowance as it turns out, limits drone aircraft testing to operating less than 400 feet and within line of sight of the operator. Scientists have only been able to test parameters on their RC Helicopters so far, so the idea of dedicated airspace is promising. The FAA says that there is experimental airspace available, but bureaucracy must be maintained even when in massive debt, and they have to be notified three weeks in advance before any flight.

As people from all around the world get used to the idea that there will be an integration of manned and unmanned airports, there will have to be some reclassification of some of the procedures around checking in. The computer check-in terminals for carriers will actually be for computers checking in. Where humans can do electronic checking in will be relabelled “Cost cutting exercises to annoy, delay, and make you line up twice”. Carriers admit that it is not very catchy, but marketing are coming up with snappy alternatives and will most likely have Richard Branson’s face all over the poster.

The future is happening already, people are no longer batting an eyelid at robots fighting for us, but yet I still have no hover skateboard. Where are the government funded grants for hoverboards? Michael J Fox had one; I wonder what happened to that?


  1. This sounds like a great idea, but in the event that one fails, don't they have to have a backup pilot anyway? Someone that can land it? Or are we to put our lives in the hands of a short-circuiting robot airplane?

  2. @Beer for the Shower, I'm not sure if they do have a standby team, because if the computer dies, I would not hold much hope to gaining manual control. There are no details to what companies do in preventing crashes, but I imagine they would have redundant computers just in case the first one dies, the backup can take over and then go from there. Industrial computers that run your utilities have a similar system.

  3. Whenever you drive somewhere, you're basically telling your car's computer, "I'd like to turn left now. Can you do that for me?" The fact of the matter is that travel is already automated. The only difference is that for some reason they have a problem with someone bringing me a Bloody Mary in one vehicle, but not the other.