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Monday, October 12, 2009


There are systems of automated car driving systems. This is quite difficult because there are so many vehicles in close proximity. Automated rail is easy because there are no directional decisions & they aren't that close together.

As the US army have recently found a driving system run by an on board computer is now possible. Computerisation being what it is that means we aren't that far from it being affordable by ordinary people (GPS for example was developed not that long ago so tank commanders would know where they were.

Any such driving system, if it uses GPS can almost equally easily be connected to a centralised traffic management system.

For air transport it is, if anything, easier than for road travel because the number of flyers is so much lower & they are far less closely spaced. Right now almost all commercial air traffic is heavily automated & most of the flight & even landings & take off can be done by computer. A worldwide system of air traffic control run through satellites like the GPS ones could be built now. This should also cover private aircraft, which prevents them getting in the way of jets & of each other.

The science fiction of the 1950s was full of flying cars. The reason they didn't develop isn't because they were not technically feasible but because traffic control was impossible. Well with such a system it is possible. Obviously if millions of people had their own flying cars the capacity of the system would have to be increased but since that would take years there would be plenty of time to expand such a system once it was in place (look at the internet & broadband).

Because it is best operated by satellite this is something (like an international grid) which is cost effective if the world does it as one.

This is from Professor John McCarthy's invaluable site:
Personal flying machines must be entirely automatically flown. This is independent of whether there is a big automatic traffic control system or whether each machine avoids the others with its own detection and computation apparatus. Anyone who treats an airplane --- let alone a helicopter --- like an automobile is asking for a short life. We humans just aren't reliable enough. Airliners which fly fixed routes require at least two professional pilots to achieve sufficient safety. Getting sufficient reliability in computer control is an unsolved but solvable problem. (Some computer scientists might disagreed with this judgment in connection to their opposition to defense against ballistic missiles). Much of the mechanical maintenance will have to be automatic or automatically controlled and inspected if the costs are to be affordable.

3. A new system of navigation and wind observation is required. The navigation problem has become easy now that the GPS (Global Positioning System) is available. Differential GPS will be required for landing. With this, landing and taking off in complete fog will be feasible, i.e. the helicopters would exceed cars in usability.

Wind gusts must be detected and observed. My candidate for this is lidar, i.e. radar using light. The lidar, whether mounted on the flyer or on the ground must scan the air mass through which the plane proposes to fly and determine the velocity field. This can be done by doppler reflection from particles suspended in the air. So far, as I understand it, the technique has mainly been used for atmospheric research.

The advantages are
1. If the flying machine was reasonably fast, the comfortable commuting range would be much larger. More people could live where they want, and husbands and wives would be more independent of each other in the job market.

2. Intrinsically there is plenty of room in the sky. With accurate enough electronic control, there wouldn't be traffic jams.

3. Less land would be occupied by highways and there would be less expense in building them.

4. Flying is fun.

5. Islands will become much more habitable when flying machines become an important form of personal transportation. The advent of cars, trucks and buses made land transportation more convenient and water transportation suffered by comparison.

Note that though civil aircraft are an order of magnitude more expensive than cars the production lines are much shorter. Technically they aren't that different & I suspect if somebody was turning out something like an improved powered hang glider in the sort of numbers the Model T Ford was produced in it would not be that expensive. Without automated control it would be carnage. With it & with the level of reliability modern cars have, it is fully possible.

More details centred here - a genuinely revolutionary automated tool now exists. A tool which is easy to implement, easy to use, easy to adapt to any airspace and extremely inexpensive. It comes with carefully constructed arguments to support its efficiency, safety, capacity and cost benefits.

This tool is part of a comprehensive and fully defined Concept of Operations called The New Model for Air Traffic Control.

The tool is also designed to facilitate a fully evolutionary approach to getting from where we are today to where we want to be in the future.

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