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The Military Input Devices Technology

Hit the Wrong Button, Drone Goes Boom 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-controller-ran-out-of-batteries dept.
ios and web coder writes "An article at Ars notes, 'Unmanned aircraft crash. In fact, they crash a lot—though there's no recent specific data, the Congressional Research Service reported last year that despite improvements, "the accident rate for unmanned aircraft is still far above that of manned aircraft.' And while many of those accidents can be attributed to being exposed to hostile fire or operating in conditions when aircraft normally wouldn't, a significant percentage of drone crashes is caused by human error. A December 2004 FAA study of Defense Department drone crashes found human factors to be a causal factor in about a third of the cases they examined (PDF).' Drones are un-cheap. As yesterday's Super Hornet story noted, they are cheaper than manned planes... but not that much cheaper. Expect them to get more expensive. Also, as they get armed, the price paid for a bad UX decision could become quite tragic."
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Hit the Wrong Button, Drone Goes Boom

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  • It's who they have flying these things [mtv.com]. You would think they could do better.

    • "It's who they have flying these things. You would think they could do better."

      Maybe. But I think it's more just WHAT it is. Despite the fact that these things cost millions of dollars, flying them is still just a glorified videogame. It's no substitute for actually sitting in the cockpit of a plane, going "Ohhhh shit!"

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Fun fact: That whooshing sound you hear; not a drone.
      • by supervillainsf (820395) on Friday March 01, 2013 @07:49PM (#43050723)
      • Re:I know why. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Friday March 01, 2013 @10:07PM (#43051575) Journal

        I don't know how much of it is that or the fact the drones just don't give you the feedback a real plane does. I have a friend who is a pilot and he's taken me up a few times and he KNOWS exactly what is going on with the plane just by sound and feel. he knows what each and every vibration is and whether it is correct or an indicator of something wrong simply because he knows the planes he flies like the back of his hand. I have heard the same thing from military pilots, that they knew their F4 or F15 like its a part of them and could tell instantly when "something wasn't right" just by what the plane was telling them via sound or vibration.

        With the drone you are really only getting video, maybe sound, you certainly aren't getting all the feedback a true pilot gets when they sit in the seat of a real aircraft. Now maybe they will find ways to fix this, maybe computers that will take over if something is going wrong, who knows, but I wouldn't be so quick to blame the pilots when we really are in the most early infancy of the tech.

        • by dbIII (701233)

          I don't know how much of it is that or the fact the drones just don't give you the feedback a real plane does

          A pilot I know said the lacking information is why he's crashed flight sims a lot more often than he's crashed real planes :)

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            And as a passenger I can understand this because once I was shown what to listen and feel for you can tell a HELL of a lot about a plane from sound and vibration. And force feedback really isn't the same, that is like saying a PS3 controller gives you the same info a formula 1 car does when it whips around the track. Even the best force feedback is VERY crude and just doesn't have the ability to give you all the info a pilot normally gets in flight.

            And the "crashing flight sims" really don't surprise me,

        • Have you tried our new force-feedback controller?
          It VIBRATES!!! ;-)

        • Any VFR pilot will tell you to never rely on gut instincts and feelings. Flying is not the same as auto cross racing (where you have consistent tactile feedback). Any perception you feel in flight is either your inner ear messing with you (it's the devil on your shoulder) or the feeling is over/under exaggerated. It crucial that you altimeter and air speed be watched at all times.

          BTW having been a passenger in a Grumman Cheetah, I can now know why this is the case. Flight is just so much more different tha

        • by doccus (2020662)
          Well, that's why i've said before that the planes should be the real things, outfitted with absolutely identical cockpits , and vibration and audio sensors that reproduce the smallest sensory, audio, and video input to the remote cockpit, in an IDENTICAL manner to how it would be received while in the air. The only things not wanted are the intense G-forces, after all..... The amount spent on these remote cockpits could be vastly higher than spent now, as they would not be lost in battle.. certainly I woul
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      "We learned on MS Flight Simulator. I thought it was standard practice to reboot every half hour, Boss."

  • Incentive (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "the accident rate for unmanned aircraft is still far above that of manned aircraft.'

    In addition to being cheaper, unmanned aircraft have no people on them. So much less of an incentive to worry about safety.

    Until the fall on someone's head, that is.

    • by pecosdave (536896)

      it's a matter of falling on the the right persons head.

      • it's a matter of falling on the the right persons head.

        That's an easy one - whoever it falls on will, by default, be the "right person."

        • by pecosdave (536896)

          Not really. If you're someone "who doesn't matter" it will just be ignored and kicked under the rug. If it falls on the head of someone with some influence or close to someone who has it all of the sudden it will matter.

        • by gmuslera (3436)
          Was not a bug, but a feature. Who knows how much people would kill all those children (even the unborn ones) if they grew up to become terrorists.
  • It's "Death from Above due to incompetence" too? That makes me feel so much better. Overall, the people who're advocating these back in the States are missing on little detail: Yes, ostensibly, you will feel like you're actually doing something to curb crime, make the neighborhood safer [insert some other thinly veiled justification for surveillance] etc... But these are not foolproof devices. There are always better fools.
    • by icebike (68054) on Friday March 01, 2013 @07:46PM (#43050695)

      It's "Death from Above due to incompetence" too? That makes me feel so much better.

      The study was done in 2004, nearly a decade ago, and most of the flights during that time were with much earlier
      models than available today.

      Still you have to worry about what happens when every Barney Fife from your local sheriff department can run one of these
      with 10 hours training.

  • I think that's the right button.
    • by PPH (736903)

      The left button?

      Remember: Left is right and right is wrong. Hey, it works for earrings.

  • We'll only use those drones abroad where nobody cares whether we drop them on some brown skinned folks. The world already doesn't give half a shit about it when we blow up a few houses 'cause someone heard someone consider pondering that there might be a terrorist somewhere in the general area. And if those things fall out of the sky, it will make our friends happy who sell them. Think of the jobs we create that way!

    Also, think how we protect our valuable fighters. You know how long it takes to train a figh

  • Un-word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspaM.world3.net> on Friday March 01, 2013 @07:13PM (#43050393) Homepage

    "Un-cheap" is not a word. TFS should say "not cheap". Can we please have some minimal editing for language in future?

    • Re:Un-word (Score:4, Funny)

      by Spy Handler (822350) on Friday March 01, 2013 @07:25PM (#43050491) Homepage Journal

      Me fail english? That's unpossible!

    • Re:Un-word (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday March 01, 2013 @07:29PM (#43050539) Homepage Journal

      "Un-cheap" is not a word. TFS should say "not cheap".

      Sigh...

      if only you were right... [wikipedia.org]

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      They have no concern on killing people, so killing the language was just collateral damage.
    • by godel_56 (1287256)

      "Un-cheap" is not a word. TFS should say "not cheap". Can we please have some minimal editing for language in future?

      Double plus ungood?

    • by volmtech (769154)
      So a drone is said to be a not maned aircraft?
      • Yes, the manes proved to induce extreme aeronautical drag while attempting flight.
        So they had to remove the manes from the drones.

        Thus, the mystery of why there are no known cases of flying lions, is now solved.

    • by meerling (1487879)
      Or how about 'expensive'? It's a word that has the (I assume) same meaning as 'un-cheap', but is actually in the English language dictionaries, unlike 'un-cheap'.

      Sheesh, I only claim English as a second language, and that I haven't found first, but even I won't say something as mangled as 'un-cheap' unless I'm making a joke.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      If you are going to read US sites you just have to take it as it comes and only complain about the stuff you can't parse at all.
    • by cellocgw (617879)

      "Un-cheap" is not a word. TFS should say "not cheap". Can we please have some minimal editing for language in future?

      Apparently whoever currently controls the present has un-realitized 1984 from the timestream.

    • by hey! (33014)

      "Un-cheap" might not be word, but "litotes" is. The poster chose to use the neologism "un-cheap" rather than "not cheap" to highlight the fact he was using irony.

      I don't quite get why people get so hot-and-bothered by this kind of garden variety use of language. Does the government take a nickel out of your bank account every time somebody uses a neologism or something? That'd un-copacetic.

  • just put another quarter in to start a new game.
  • by okor (1848382)
    Is that data even valid anymore?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858)

      Data is always valid.

      What you meant to ask is, "does that [2004] data apply to the current situation?"

  • You think some armchair-pilot cares, that's cute. It's not like he/she is sitting in the cockpit. The reason why these are cheap is beacause the human element has been taken out (to train a pilot is around $2M last time I checked, and it's been a decade.) So yeah, they're gonna crash more than manned flights. Who cares? You want the pilot to care? Sitting his/her ass in a manned jet is the only sure way to make that happen, and yes, that's expensive. It's easier/cheaper to train a mechanic to unbox a
    • You think some armchair-pilot cares, that's cute. It's not like he/she is sitting in the cockpit. The reason why these are cheap is beacause the human element has been taken out (to train a pilot is around $2M last time I checked, and it's been a decade.) So yeah, they're gonna crash more than manned flights. Who cares? You want the pilot to care? Sitting his/her ass in a manned jet is the only sure way to make that happen, and yes, that's expensive.

      It's easier/cheaper to train a mechanic to unbox another drone and screw the wings on...

      I can think of two solutions;

      Electric shock feedback for the drone jockies, maybe some heating elements wired to the soles of their feet stuff like that. So they feel pain when the drone 'feels pain'.

      Alternatively program the drones so that they fear death and don't want to crash.

      The first will probably end better than the second...

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday March 01, 2013 @07:27PM (#43050505)

    One third is a surprisingly low percentage. The number of manned small plane crashes caused by human error is probably close to two thirds.

    So while I'm sure lot could be done to improve the ergonomics of the pilot, it sounds like the drones' mechanical failure rate is a more worrying problem.

    • by CncRobot (2849261)

      You need a disclaimer.

      Yes, the rate is at 54%, but what they classify as pilot error you may or may not. I'm pretty sure a local crash got put down as pilot error because the engine blew shortly after takeoff and oil covered the windshield and the two guys went down in the water, mostly unharmed. They had slight engine weirdness on run up that they chose to ignore so it was pilot error. I would have gone back, not much flight experience for me, because I don't feel comfortable if anything is slightly off

  • Make the drones totally autonomous.

    Now, excuse me while I go hide under a tree.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Who do you think programs the automation?

  • While I recognize this is not military quality, but for under a grand I can easily build a self navigating aircraft capable of carrying all sorts of surveillance and bombs such as Molotov cocktails. I may not get days of flight time, but I bet I can come pretty close on my first try. I don't even have to do any real work, just combine my existing R/C modeling skills with some parts from diydrones.com. The hardware is cheap, comes with software thats pretty solid from the start and easy as hell to extend.

  • The risk of crashing a manned plane is your death...
    Flying a drone is more like a video game, you don't have any fear of personal injury so you expend less effort to avoid crashing.

  • from TFA: "Analysis shows that general-purpose computer workstations and UAS GCSes are up to 98% similar. "

    There's your problem, right there. Flying a desk is not the same thing as flying a computer.

    There's a reason that certain cockpit controls have different shapes. For example, tactile feedback, as long as you're trained to pay attention to it, can spare you the embarrassment of mistaking your flaps from your landing gear. Just in case you've never flown, retracting the gear when you're "going around

    • It's only a problem if the pilot thinks he's flying a plane. Drones != manned aircraft. The mechanics of flight are the same, but the UAV has to handle of that on it's own due to communication latency between air and ground.
    • There's your problem, right there. Flying a desk is not the same thing as flying a computer.

      I remember in a game, 'Civilisation: Call to Power' there was a corporation unit the animation of which was basically a guy in a suit sitting at a desk. When it move yes it was very much like a flying desk. I always found that quite hilarious.

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:21PM (#43050949)

    CFIT was identified as a cause of 25% of USAF Class A Mishaps between 1993 and 2002.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CFIT [wikipedia.org]

    Controlled (should be "uncontrolled?") Flight Into Terrain. Simply put, "the aircraft was working fine until someone drove it into the ground".

    It's easy to do, especially with high workload in a fast jet, in a combat situation.

    I guess that the UAV technology is still immature.

    • by JeanCroix (99825)

      I guess that the UAV technology is still immature.

      Yes, this. We are nowhere near replacing most manned military aircraft, especially fighters, with drones for at least a decade, probably more. Despite the vehement protestations of many of slashdot's armchair generals.

  • The current generation of drones are *much* cheaper than their manned counterparts. When the DoD reports "per unit cost" of drones, most of the time that cost includes multiple aircraft. Per aircraft cost of a Predator B (MQ-9) is ~$10mil. The full reported unit cost of ~$50 million includes *four* aircraft and all the hardware to operate them. Not to mention reduced training, maintenance, and pretty much every other sort of cost. The Air Force hates using drones, and they resisted widespread adoption
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:31PM (#43051013) Homepage Journal

    A December 2004 FAA study of Defense Department drone crashes found human factors to be a causal factor...

    You've got to be shitting me.

    A news story based on a decade-old study?

    In other news, a 2004 study shows that your iPad does not exist!

  • The reality is that drones are much easier to fly than regular aircraft. Flying a drone is a point and click affair; most accidents are caused by people trying to fly it like a conventional aircraft. IMO, the Air Force's insistence on re-purposing fighter pilots as drone pilots is responsible for a great deal of the high accident rate. The Army, in contrast, doesn't use "pilots" to operate their drones and yet enjoy a lower accident rate.
    • by a_hanso (1891616)

      That kind of makes sense. If somebody pulled me out of what I do now and put a point-and-click interface between me and my work, I'd get upset too. They should hire people from the gaming community.

  • You push the wrong button down
    The drone careens round and round
    And slashmissions come out

  • Get humans out of the loop.

    -- SkyNet

  • An artist at my University has worked towards trying to raise awareness of these sorts of risks - particularly topical for the San Diego region where we have a confluence of lots of defense companies and high-tech university research. His art piece generated a lot of attention for wanting to stimulate the conversations we'd have when a crash occurs in a residential or otherwise inopportune area, before the event actually happens. http://uccenterfordrones.wordpress.com/regarding-recent-drone-malfunction/ [wordpress.com] was

  • The theory is that drones should fly better than manned aircraft--makes logical sense since drones are essentially robots/computers.

    The experience is that drone crash more often and mainly caused by human error. Since drones are remotely controlled exclusively, not in a supervisory manner.

    The practice is that drone control, equipment, telemetry and pilot training, though not classified as manned operation, were based on manned operation principles (e.g. rules of engagement for instance).

    Basically the Human

  • ...is remove any potential human error by developing an artificial intelligence to completely computerize operations. We could call it Skynet.

  • Are we at the point now that every 'ios and web' coder must consider a default 'UX' for every touchable object on the planet? Or do they really think the 'UX' of killing is to be regarded a major sales point for modern military budgets.

    Is it too hard to accept that users still create a large part of their own experience learning any device and is not something which needs to be self-built in, unlike a UI? Where exactly are we aiming to hurl our technological consciousness back towards?

  • Soon they'll be autonomous, solar powered, and small and smart enough
    to track you down and crawl into your ear before they blow your mind out your nostrils.

    Ban the earworm now, before it's too late!

  • We build and operate manned aircrafts to a very very high safety standard.
    A simple software upgrade for a manned aircraft takes years to complete, because of the standards employed.
    When operating manned aircrafts we have strict standards as well on how to do everything and many many small and large things we don't do.
    These are all very limiting both in the cost they impose and in the ability to get the job done.
    We use unmanned aircrafts so we operate more freely both when building and when flying them, this

  • The relatives of somewhere around 3000 murdered Pakistanis would like a word with you about verb tenses.
  • It funny as the whole drone issue is made out to be something new. I was training horses at the Atlantic City Racetrack in the late 70's. The racetrack was actually 10 miles from Atlantic City proper and at this time the casino industry was just a thought. One afternoon a drone from a nearby military installation actually went off course and crashed in the infield of the racetrack. We thought we were being attacked and had no idea that these things were even in existence. The secrecy was the same then as it
  • Pilot's butt isn't on the line...

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