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Unmanned Aircraft Will


Affect


Helicopter Pilots


At first glance, the amazing possibilities


offered by


unmanned aircraft can be intimidating to human helicopter pilots. It is quite natural to wonder what jobs will be left for people once the robots have taken to the air.


Well, fear not! The advent of unmanned systems won’t make human pilots obsolete.


In the near term, the current state of autonomous flight technology, alongside the understandable caution of the FAA and other aviation regulators towards this technology, means that air taxis and other UAM systems will require human pilots. “I foresee humans flying these aircraft during the first 10-20 years of urban air mobility,” says Plaza, “whether directly onboard or remotely by wireless.”


The continued need for pilots is echoed by Airbus Helicopters. “Even though the current generation of the CityAirbus has an automated flight mode that is operational now, we have a pilot in the ground station,” Sarihan says. “We are planning for the fact that the initial phase of urban air mobility that will be transporting people from point A to point B will require a pilot for regulatory and technical reasons. This includes the safe integration in the airspace that we expect will not be possible in a fully autonomous mode in the near future.”


Meanwhile, the possibilities offered by unmanned aircraft mean that the job of human piloting will evolve to adapt to them, in the same way that the replacement of horses by cars resulted in more than just “horseless carriages” traveling at the same speeds and doing the same things.


The “aircraft carrier” model of package delivery is just one example. A mix of manned and unmanned aircraft could be highly effective in search-and- rescue missions for locating missing people in hostile weather. Drones also could be used to deliver life-saving supplies to manned helicopters waiting for safe flying conditions to return.


Bell APT military video url: https://vimeo.com/440433961


“Moreover, you still need humans on SAR missions to rescue people and provide them with emergency medical treatment,” says Riedel. “You will still need pilots to fly those and other similar missions. So unmanned aircraft won’t replace manned helicopters. They will supplement them.”


For helicopter pilots, the best way to cope with the arrival of unmanned aircraft is to identify areas of new opportunities and to pursue them when doing so makes sense. Yes, change is definitely coming to manned helicopter flight, but it doesn’t have to be bad change. In fact, drones may end up doing the dangerous “drudge work” previously performed by human pilots, freeing them to carry out the most interesting and fulfilling missions.


64


Mar/Apr 2021


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