Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Talking to Robots on the Flight Deck



You might ask yourself, "Who in the world is that yellow shirt signaling?" It is an unmanned system afterall, right? What is the point if the operator is that green shirted guy (not that kind of green shirt) right next to the yellow shirt. That was exactly the question on my mind last week when i first noted all the pictures and video put out by the US Navy as the X-47B was driving all over the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

Well, it turns out all that work is part of teaching the UCAS-D to read and understand the hand signals of the Yellow Shirt. Yes, that guy in the green on video is the human engaged pilot, but there is a learning process underway by which the unmanned aircraft is learning how to taxi around an aircraft carrier autonomously based on the hand signals of the yellow shirt.

Ready to watch the video again? Pretty cool IMO.

Watch very closely in this video (and check out others for more examples) and you will see how very deliberate the yellow shirt is with his signals, indeed he stays very steady and is being very deliberate with every motion. This is an example of yet one more in a long list of very interesting, intricate processes being developed as the Navy moves toward flying advanced computers without pilots strapped to jet engines off aircraft carriers.

As one pilot noted to me today, what this video is actually showing is a two way conversation on the flight deck.

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