DARPA Technology Autonomously Lands Severely Damaged Aircraft

Illustration for article titled DARPA Technology Autonomously Lands Severely Damaged Aircraft

DARPA, the Pentagon's source for R&D (and lovers of acronyms big and small) have released a video illustrating the Damage Tolerance and Autonomous Landing Solution they developed alongside Athena Technologies. Basically, DTALS is designed to take over for a pilot in the event that the aircraft sustains heavy damage. The system automatically detects the damage and adjusts the flight control system to land the aircraft safely.

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In the demo video, a scale model F-18 manages to return safely to the earth despite the loss of over 60% of its wing. At this point, the DTALS system is being confined to UAVs and other unmanned aircraft, but it seems that it could be applicable to manned an commercial aircraft somewhere down the line. Hit the following link to see the full video. [Rockwell Collins and Business Wire]

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DISCUSSION

I'd think that if a pilot had catostrophic wing failure from enemy munitions, you'd still be engaged by said enemy. An autonomous system lazily (pardon the vernacular) bringing the pilot home might need to be a little more, shall we say, proactive in avoiding any further incoming enemy fire. Though, if the pilot sees incoming fire after the automated system takes over, ejection is still an option. So, I think this could work for the instances of 'fire and forget' from long range where the plane structurally survived the initial impact, but during heavy close encounters ejection seems the best option.