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I've seen in a documentary that many airports have people guiding the airplanes to the parking spots (marshals). I've also noticed that the key point is to reach a precise spot on which the nose landing gear has to be placed. Couldn't that be solved with a camera installed on the landing gear itself so the pilots can check whether they go along the lines and finally reach the precise spot?

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    $\begingroup$ @RussellMcMahon - that is completelly and utterly false. As someone whose job is software development, that's like you said walking carefully outperforms flying in a 747. The only reason is cost. $\endgroup$ – Davor Dec 22 '18 at 10:31
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    $\begingroup$ Think of it this way, (and I'm going to completely fabricate these numbers): Any extra weight requires extra fuel to be carried. Say 10 kg of weight might require 1 kg extra fuel. Across a fleet of aircraft, even a very small increase in weight can have a profound impact on fuel costs. Said another way, a human marshaller is likely more cost effective than installing such a system. At least for now. $\endgroup$ – user16289 Dec 22 '18 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ camera installed on the landing gear? What about wingtips? and the top of the tail. or 180 degrees to the right, where some jackass is about to cut me off. or there's some lady chasing her kid, or baggage flying around; debris on the runway, etc. (locusts!) Cat and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria! $\endgroup$ – Mazura Dec 22 '18 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ @user16289 They do have taxi cameras on large aircraft already because its impractical to have a human marshaller accompany the airplane to the runway. $\endgroup$ – user71659 Dec 22 '18 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Davor You misunderstood what I said / I could have been clearer :-). I meant that the cost of implementing protection measures that meet all eventualities in eg the random-threat rich environment of taxiing amongst people, aircraft, unexpected material and protrusions, un or partially authorised people, ... - is so far much more $ costly than using x% of a person to do the same thing. A well enough programmed, sensor rich system can do the job better in many cases - but so far it's not worth the cost and effort of covering potential hazards compared to using part of a person to handle it. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Dec 24 '18 at 10:45
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There are automated systems that provide the same function as a marshal. They are in place at some airports but not all since upgrades cost money and not all airports may see a use for it.

At smaller fields marshals often serve multiple roles aside from just guiding aircraft they may also handle baggage, pump fuel, drive tugs and all the other various ramp jobs. In this case it may be more cost effective to keep a marshal around than instal a costly automated system that only replaces one of their jobs.

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  • $\begingroup$ These also may fail in low visibility conditions such as heavy fog, requiring human marshallers to go out and replace the automated system. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hampton Dec 22 '18 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHampton, isn't the automated system installed at about the same place the marshal is standing anyway? $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Dec 22 '18 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ A Marshall will know to adapt so he can see. Get fog lights, walk closer, get a second person, etc. $\endgroup$ – Nelson Dec 22 '18 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec It depends on the model. Some use lasers which get scattered by fog. Other models which use visual imaging from CCD cameras do better in low visibility. The Wikipedia article that Dave linked to in this answer has a good summary of the different types. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hampton Dec 22 '18 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHampton, oh, right, I thought about issues with pilot seeing the system, but not the issues with the system knowing the position of the aircraft, which is, however, the more tricky part. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Dec 22 '18 at 22:16
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You are talking about aircraft marshalling, not sky marshal.

When an aircraft comes a gate, one of the tasks is to park on a designated spot. A marshal will help in that, and so can a camera do that. But there are many other tasks assigned to a marshal, and cameras cannot do those tasks.

This is part of the broader ramp services. The services related to aircraft directly are:

  • inserting and pulling chocks
  • indicating when can engines be started and shut off
  • navigating on ground
  • informing pilots if they need to change taxi speed
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  • $\begingroup$ You will always need boots on the ground to make sure no one gets sucked out of theirs. This would be the last job to go after everything else is automated, if even then. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Dec 22 '18 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Mazura - akin to LSO / Paddles / Batsman (or current more automated but still "a real person") on a carrier. Many do not realise that the guy with the paddles is a qualified pilot - which makes perfect sense on reflection. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Dec 24 '18 at 10:53

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