Remote piloting of passenger planes could soon become a reality
Existing technology could allow air traffic control towers to override actions by pilots, effectively turning passenger jets into huge drones in the case of an emergency.
Existing technology could allow for planes to become more automated and give ground staff the ability to seize control of planes if necessary.
In this system that would make planes more like drones, planes can communicate with the air traffic control tower either directly or via satellite link. In response to information from the plane, air traffic control can override the cockpit commands and input commands into computers in the control tower to maintain stable flight.
Boeing patented an ‘uninterruptible pilot system’ in 2009, that prevents ‘unauthorized flights.’ The fly-by-wire system can navigate an aircraft to a predetermined destination and land the aircraft safely if the aircraft encounters trouble. Andreas Lubitz, co-pilot on Germanwings flight 4U9525, was able crash the aircraft by locking the captain out of the cockpit and turning off autopilot. Under a fly-by-wire system like the one designed by Boeing, ground crew would have been able to wrest control of the aircraft.
The practice of flying airplanes from the ground is currently limited to military purposes despite the ability to extend the same technology to commercial flights. Unmanned aircraft are controversial though as critics often cite the fear of hacking.
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