Why haven't we seen virtual reality jet piloting system yet?

What are the barriers to the introduction of such technology?

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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "virtual realtity jet piloting system"? There are many UAVs, including turbine powered, that can be operated remotely. Does that not qualify? $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Jun 10 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ Please explain what precisely you mean with virtual reality, and how the linked video is related to your question! $\endgroup$ – bogl Jun 10 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @bogl VR is something which is itself fake but gives an experience of reality. $\endgroup$ – user366312 Jun 10 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ @bogl in the link, we see that, the driver is sitting in a simulator-like environment. if this same technology is used by military-jets, the lives of pilots could be saved. $\endgroup$ – user366312 Jun 10 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ The screen is large and curved, but it has very little to do with VR. Is your question about VR, or what else? $\endgroup$ – bogl Jun 10 at 14:42

This technology is well known in aviation, and it is already in use for unmanned aerial vehicles, mainly for military use.

Obstacles that prevent remote control of passenger carrying airliners at present include:

  • Fail-safe behaviour (What happens if the remote link is interrupted?)
  • Cost calculation (The introduction of such a system would be very costly)
  • Acceptance of passengers (It is a re-assuring feeling, when the pilot puts his/her own life in the 'same boat')

Further to that, remote control competes with automation. Subject to opinion, automation has the potential to perform better in all the bullets that I listed.

Note that similar research is ongoing for cargo ships. We will probably see automated and remote controlled sea going vessels much sooner than airliners.

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  • $\begingroup$ This technology is well known in aviation, and it is already in use for unmanned aerial vehicles, mainly for military use. --- not true. UAVs don't use virtual reality. They only use 2D cameras and videos. $\endgroup$ – user366312 Jun 10 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ Same as the trucks in the video you have linked. 0:15 "remote controlled trucks. 2:25 "remote drivers". There is no mentioning of virtual reality in that video, or can you point me to it? If your question is about VR, you better delete the link, and explain how you envision VR to be used. At present, it is not clear from your question. $\endgroup$ – bogl Jun 10 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ "It is a re-assuring feeling, when the pilot puts his/her own life in the 'same boat')" - It's more than a feeling, I think. The pilots are the only people on the plane who have the safety triangle: The knowledge to judge safety, the authority to not fly or alter the flight plan, and a deep personal stake in the outcome. Remote piloting would break the triangle and safety will suffer. $\endgroup$ – Wayne Conrad Jun 10 at 14:00

This is technologically possible, a commercial jet could be flown remotely like a drone is, through automation and satellite communications. As you allude to there are barriers.

Dealing with problems remotely is harder, recognizing and dealing with problems is challenging when you are removed from the source of the information. When you are in the cockpit you have more information at hand. We would have to accept some losses as a result of bad data. (Note that there are some advantages to automation, but that's not the question)

One major barrier is the lack of satellite bandwidth. To be effective a great deal of information must be transferred between the airplane and the pilot(s), like telemetry, commands, and high quality panoramic video so pilots can see and avoid other traffic. That is a lot of bandwidth! If all airplanes were flown remotely we would need many more satellites to handle it all, which would be expensive.

There's a big risk in relying on satellite communications for flying passenger airplanes. Satellite communications could be disrupted by jamming or solar activity, imagine having a thousand airliners in flight and losing comms with them all! There would be no way to completely mitigate against this risk.

Another major barrier is the passenger perception. Most passengers would not want to be in an airplane flown by a person in an armchair half a world away, they'd prefer someone with some skin in the game.

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  • $\begingroup$ Significant increase in the attack surface for unauthorized control as well. $\endgroup$ – BowlOfRed Jun 10 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ For sure @BowlOfRed, although as an information security consultant I wouldn't say it's a barrier, only a surmountable challenge which would need very solid coding. More of a concern would be jamming, or a solar event damaging satellite communications while airplanes are in flight. I may add that in... $\endgroup$ – GdD Jun 10 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Bearing in mind that a pilot sitting in the plane is trained to handle a loss of comms (as most here know), while a pilot sitting in an desk chair at corporate HQ can do absolutely nothing for the plane over the South Pacific that he just lost communications with. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jun 10 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds ideal @FreeMan, if you want to become a character in Lost. $\endgroup$ – GdD Jun 10 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Or a character in Dead. ;) (Haven't seen Lost, but I get the general idea. I have no idea if Dead is a show or not...) $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jun 10 at 17:35

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