Back to Squawk list
  • 13

Air Force Studies Autonomous Cargo Jets.

The Air Force has awarded a contract to Silicon Valley firm Reliable Robotics to study the feasibility of flying its biggest iron autonomously. The company will look at whether it makes sense to fly multi-engine jet cargo planes from gate to gate with a remote pilot monitoring from the ground. ( More...

Sort type: [Top] [Newest]

Larry Toler 10
As a former Air Transportation Specialist I wouldn't have to argue with loadmasters about changes in the load plan? Would the loadmaster also be removed?
Maybe in combat situations this is feasible. However, day to day operations we pretty much ran like a regular airline and everyday was a real world scenario, constantly moving cargo, mail, and pax. In the back of my mind I'm thinking autonomous cargo (MAC for us older guys, AMC for the newer guys) flights will grow a larger back log of cargo and pax in our Aerial Ports. Requirements change constantly to supply or resupply troops at fixed and forward bases. Despite what's in the regs these days, there is no cookie cutter load on any particular aircraft. Also we can reconfigure the cabin layout at a moment's notice depending on mission. Most of our MAC/AMC flights were regular channel missions but the loads between pax and cargo changed quickly depending on backlog and priority cargo.
Now that I think about it, I was phase 2 qualified to load C130's and 141's without a loadmaster, maybe this can be feasible...not, lol.
sparkie624 10
UGH... this is an accident just waiting to happen!
mbrews 4
Not to worry, Sparkie. Read closer and see it's only an Air Force STUDy, R & D.

Obama spoke about shovel-ready spending ; IMO this R&D grant is merely "pencil-ready " spending by USAF. A make-work project, touting a shiny new object.
godutch 5
We are already doing that with large drones. Most large aircraft (commercial/military) can already almost takeoff, fly, and land on auto for flap, gear, and trim(?) settings...and ATC control. I think it's a great idea to look into...especially into an active battlefield situation.
Mark Foisy 5
Autonomous definition - "Not controlled by others or by outside forces; independent." Flying remotely isn't autonomous; it's still being controlled by a pilot. Now, if the control link fails, for whatever reason, then the aircraft will be flying autonomously with whatever pre-programmed decision making abilities it has.
patrick baker 3
this is a vision inspired by the cartoon show the Jetsons, nonsensical then, more stupid now. Also by a generation who think deep down workers can be made obsolete, especially pilots and flight engineers. A pilot remote monitering an inflght aircraft: pardon me as i snicker. self evident (ought to be )shortsightedness mixed with foolishstupidy is a heady brew when first taken, but nothing clever or smart remains thereafter.
bbabis 4
Along with many other Aviation dinosaurs on this sight, I too loved the good old days, but technology and progress cannot be stopped. In 50+ years of commanding some wonderful aircraft and flying with some wonderful pilots I've seen aircraft get more wonderful but not so the pilots. The children of the magenta are quickly becoming the overriding pilot group and airmanship and SA simply are not there. Many are unaware of which state or even country they're in and their only known position is xxxx miles from their destination or next fix. Many incapable of safe manual flight if suddenly forced upon them. The progression will be from pilot-controllers to pilot-monitors to pilot-passengers before it's obvious they are no longer needed. Thank God, as long as I can fly, you can always jump in the Champ and go see the leaves.
William Ableman 3
I agree. Not many pilots today have the stick and rudder flying capability. I believe that they should hand fly the plane up to at least half way to cruising altitude, but so many put it on autopilot very shortly after takeoff. I also believe that many of those pilots should get a lot of taildragger time, like in your Champ, so they learn how to really fly a plane.
MichaelHale 2
"on this site". "Children of the magenta"?? Can someone enlighten me, please.
MichaelHale 5
OK - I looked up "children of the magenta"; refers to pilots who are too dependent on the "magenta lines" on their instruments, and who do not know how to hand fly a plane.
david bevan 1
Amen to that.
tsberry901 4
Bad, bad idea. I have literally thousands of hours instructing in multi-million-dollar flight simulators which have the latest technology, and their software is still full of bugs.
Tflys1 5
A terrorist hacker's wet dream
bentwing60 3
The MIC's budget is 'way to big for their britches'!
Chris Phillips 2
What’s funny is that some of you seem completely oblivious to how Predators operate.
Steven Williamson 2
People on the ground don't need to worry, no chance a drone cargo jet will fall on them. Now if it was a 2 pound DJI quadcopter - that's dangerous!!!!!!
Debra von Trapp 1
Not the appropriate application of remote tech in this scenario.
James Driskell 1
Nothing to worry about here, nothing to worry about here, nothdbt 2 wory abut her, .... crunch!
David Beattie 1
Why not? 40% if AF missions are flown by drones already. It will happen.
Greg Kusiak 1
Sigh. More AI.
As another squawk noted, an airline who trusted the machines too much had 2 incidents on the same day because of it, but managed to self-correct.
One thought I had after reflecting on how it _might_ help solve any Pilot shortage crisis is a convo I had with a senior flight attendant who stated quite confidently that they could fly the aircraft they worked on because they had seen how to set/operate FMC etc. so many times/for so long. Maybe they need some training to be able to “sanity check” (and possibly operate) as required if the in-flight and on-ground systems fail/glitch? This is about safety, right?
Shenghao Han 1
It's all fun and dandy until one of these crashed into a residential area...

Remember why we don't have nuclear powered cargo ship and planes?
Absolutely nothing can go wrong. Go wrong. Go wrong.
William Ableman 1
Absolutely not, not, noth... nothing can go wrong.
John Taylor 1
I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.
Tyler Ballance -3
Just another project from the USAF's Affirmative Action hires.
Absolutely nothing can go wrong. Go wrong. Go wrong


Don't have an account? Register now (free) for customized features, flight alerts, and more!
Did you know that FlightAware flight tracking is supported by advertising?
You can help us keep FlightAware free by allowing ads from We work hard to keep our advertising relevant and unobtrusive to create a great experience. It's quick and easy to whitelist ads on FlightAware or please consider our premium accounts.