Problems and prospects of ensuring the safety of civil aviation

Civil aviation is currently the safest transport. However, aviation accidents and disasters are one of the favorite topics in the media. This leads to the fact that there are many people who are afraid to fly airplanes.

In this post we will consider what the greatest danger of flying is and what can be done about it.


Landing problem

If you go to Wikipedia and see the statistics of modern air crashes, you can make sure that most air accidents and disasters are associated with the approach of an aircraft. This is the so-called "Collision with the Earth in a controlled flight" , in English - Controlled flight into terrain, CFIT. It also says: "The main causes of CFIT are: pilot errors (especially in difficult weather conditions), malfunctioning or unstable operation of navigation equipment." At the same time, some cases of shortage / flight during landing are not related to CFIT, but with regard to the subject of this article, this remark does not have special significance.

What is the problem of landing the plane? The fact is that the aircraft is a rather fragile structure, and piloting is a rather complicated process, since air is a medium with a low density. When approaching, the aircraft must follow the landing glide path with high accuracy to get to the beginning of the runway with a certain course and speed. A shortage leads to damage to the airplane’s landing gear and a catastrophe, a large flight - to the inability to stop the movement in time with similar consequences. In addition, the approach process begins at a great distance from the aerodrome, landing can be carried out in bad weather conditions, etc.


To ensure safety of flights near the ground and approach, various systems were developed - TAWS (Warning System for Approaching the Ground), course-glide path systems - ILS (meter range), MLS (centimeter range), radio navigation systems - Western VOR / DME and Soviet RSBN.

The most advanced systems - ILS and MLS in their latest versions allow landing in the absence of visibility.


When the aircraft moves away from the correct glide path at the heading or altitude, a signal difference occurs and a warning is issued.


In this case, the pilot sees that he needs to direct the plane to the left and slightly up.

Decision problems

There are many problems with the use of various systems - dependence on human actions, failure of equipment (both ground and airborne), interference, etc.

For quite a long time, there has not been any significant progress in air navigation and automatic flight control devices. If you look at the development of electronics, automation, human-machine interfaces, it can be noted that the gap between the consumer segment and the segment of the application of all this in aviation has grown significantly. In the 80s, aeronautical equipment and control systems were practically Hi-tech at the forefront, and now they are reliable, but traditional solutions.
Why did this happen? This is nothing complicated, everything is logical. Civil aviation is a fairly conservative industry, where reliability and safety are paramount. And it is right. But now this has become an excuse for maintaining the status quo in the aviation products market. It’s very expensive to get certified. And it’s very difficult to lobby for the adoption of your decision as a standard.

The modern development of technology and software allows you to create small-sized and lightweight equipment, which can significantly improve the safety of civil aviation flights.

To do this, it is necessary to solve several problems:
1) Ensuring the reliability of equipment
2) Ensuring accuracy of guidance
3) Ensuring the necessary overall dimensions
4) Ensuring noise immunity

In addition, the reduction of various methods of pointing the aircraft on course will avoid overloading the cockpit interface.

Ensuring reliability is completely solved by duplication (cold and hot) of nodes responsible for processing and storing incoming information, while the presence of several guidance systems based on different principles, with the consistency of their readings, will allow, in theory, to land even in an automated mode.

So, to drive the aircraft to the glide path and landing, you can navigate through GPS (bringing to the necessary point to start the descent), on systems with ground emitters (such as ILS), and in the future you can equip the airport strip with passive radio reflectors in an oversized configuration and by the reflected signal to land from the aircraft (with the ability to change the frequency and knowledge of the spectral characteristics of the transmitted signal provides a very high noise immunity of this system).

Having onboard our own radar (modern aircraft equipped with them), we can also solve many related problems: if you place the same radio reflectors on the plane, you can automatically deploy oncoming aircraft (collisions in the air are not so rare).

Naturally, to solve these problems, the aircraft should have a radar with a directional phased array of high resolution.

I would like to develop such systems on the principle of open source - to reduce dependence on ambitions and “fatal flaws” to zero, there was no dependence on licenses, and there, who knows, perhaps due to the lack of protected patents in private aviation, this could be possible.

Development prospects

So, what, in my understanding, is a promising system for preventing collisions with the ground and other aircraft.

First of all, redundancy. Modern computing systems have very good weight and size characteristics, as well as low power consumption. In industry, where reliability and safety are also important, a lot of production equipment is controlled by its controllers, information from which goes to the dispatcher, where they are controlled from.
Having distributed throughout the fuselage, connecting several redundant systems with common tires, setting them priorities, you can count on an increase in reliability.

In addition, the modular design, when a non-working functional unit can be quickly replaced by a working one, will reduce the time for repair and maintenance (the set number of hours has flown - replacement, inspection, maintenance), the introduction of self-diagnostics in as many places as possible will not only localize the problem, but and, if there is a backup node, quickly eliminate it. Naturally, this should be implemented in such a way that, in case of any failure, the faulty node could not affect the functioning of the rest of the system (noise, short circuit, dangerous voltage levels should not affect the performance of other modules or data transfer).

Another very slippery problem is telemetry and remote control. Quite a lot of accidents and incidents occurred due to non-discipline or pilot mistakes. On the other hand, getting control of the aircraft from outside is a rather dangerous opportunity. The use of biometric devices to monitor the status of the crew may be one of the outputs. In a state of panic, confusion, severe fatigue, the reaction slows down, coordination worsens, etc. In this case, control interception can be a good way out. And this system should not have vulnerabilities.

Now consider the problem of navigation and proximity to objects. The positioning system greatly facilitates the work of the pilot. If the approaching ships transmit their coordinates to each other, this will be another channel, except for the radar and the dispatcher to prevent a collision in the air or in the strip. A phased multi-range directional antenna array along with a specific configuration of radio reflectors on airplanes can also prevent a collision in the air. For this, of course, appropriate software must be implemented that will warn the pilot and give recommendations on actions to prevent a crash.
When approaching the ground, the distance to it is controlled using a radio altimeter, when landing in conditions of poor visibility this is not always enough. The use, for example, of infrared cameras of certain ranges, by placing heating elements on the strip and transmitting the image to the monitor in the pilot's cabin, a significant improvement in landing accuracy can be achieved.

Using radio reflectors in the strip, millimeter-wave waves, adaptive transmitters on board, you can build a system that allows landing in any weather conditions at any time of the day.

Software development for such systems is one of the most difficult tasks. If everything is more or less well developed with hardware, then software modularity can be either an advantage or a disadvantage. There are many questions in this area, but few convincing answers. And this is another reason why the creation of a flexible and secure flight control system is delayed.

It is possible that after reading this article, someone will be interested in the problem of ensuring flight safety, will become the general designer and we will someday have even safer civil aviation.

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