Flight fantastic

5 months ago Comments Off on Flight fantastic

THE idea of a drone—an aircraft designed from scratch to be pilotless—is now familiar. But what if you want to make pilotless a plane you already possess? Air forces, particularly America’s, sometimes do this with obsolete craft that they wish to fly for target practice. By using servomotors to work the joystick and the control surfaces, and adding new instruments and communications so the whole thing can be flown remotely, a good enough lash-up can be achieved to keep the target airborne until it meets its fiery fate. The desire for pilotlessness, though, now goes way beyond the ability to take pot shots at redundant F-16s. America’s air force wants, as far as possible, to robotise cargo, refuelling and reconnaissance missions, leaving the manned stuff mostly to its top-gun fighter pilots. This could be done eventually with new, purpose-built aircraft. But things would happen much faster if existing machines could instantly and efficiently be retrofitted to make their pilots redundant. 

Shim Hyunchul and his colleagues at KAIST (formerly the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) think they can manage just that. They plan to do…Continue reading
Science and technology