So the project is on track then
Everyone knows the first half of any project takes the first 90% of the time/money and the second half takes the other 90%...
A British Army Watchkeeper drone that crashed near its home base of Aberporth in south Wales did so after its crew overrode its autopilot, causing the unmanned aircraft to hit a tree. The Watchkeeper, tail number WK050, was destroyed in the June 2018 crash, according to the BBC, which obtained a copy of an internal Ministry of …
I believe budget allocation is closer to:
90% - design and build of initial custom hardware. i.e. generally taking off the shelf items and borking them in some way.
90% - effort to get the borked hardware working as required by the required services
120% - initial order of equipment and spares. Please note, additional money may be required for spares that will never actually be used or required.
80% - order of spares and fixes to get initial equipment order operational
20% - contingency for buying the original off-the-shelf item at RRP if it is found to be more suitable
All of this is optimistic and assumes that someone may actually want to use it and it isn't cancelled just prior to being useful.
To be fair, those two separate stations were probably adjacent displays displaying the state of each screw seperately, and probably in a very logical way with the port screw on the left and the starboard screw on the right...
Training. Training and getting people to actually read what's on their screens.
Or else better GUI design.
But nope! Rather than train and invest in better design, they're ripping out the glass bridge for a solution straight out of 1895.
"It's highly likely the Russians hacked in and caused the crash."
I believe the current technique is to "encourage" their rivals to select the worst possible person for a position, and then let nature take it's course.
Since it was operator error, this is indeed a possibility :)
Thats about the same as PIP was designed to save the govt by penalising the disabled and cutting their support....
The word "priorities" comes to mind......
We could also have just hacked £1.2 billion off the foreign aid budget, given that most of it ends up in the hands of arms dealers, warlords, presidential palace renovations and the people its meant to help see little or none of it.....
Surely it would be a net saving by sending the "commander" of each single drone's crew to get their PPL - £10k - or even a gliding "get to solo" course - £2k-ish - so they have an understanding of the basics of flight and why an aircraft may be landing long or just doing something that, to the untrained eye looks a bit weird but is just the software doing its thing, as - you'd hope - somewhere along the line a pilot has been involved in its development.
Yes, it has no actual "controls", but it will at least stop most of these "I can't do a lot, but I'll do what the system allows me...... Oops" situations.
With 50 aircraft costing £800m, this single crash "cost" £16m; at that price you may as well send anyone in the entire Army who will ever have anything operationally to do with a drone on a gliding course and still have plenty of money left over.
Perhaps interesting (although certainly way off topic) - during WW2 the German Army's Sturmgeschuetz ("Stug") self-propelled guns were much more accurate in their firing than any of the other German tanks and tank destroyers.
That was because they were originally classified as artillery, and the gunners were far better trained.
Hardly. A Stug had a much lower profile than a tank - after all it was just a tank chassis with no turret - so it presented a smaller target.
But it wouldn't have been any more "stable", and in those days no armoured vehicle could fire while on the move. Not with any hope of accuracy, anyway.
Like all turretless AFVs - from the Jagdtiger and Jagdpanther down to the Hetzer - the Stug's advantages were usually outweighed by its vulnerability from the sides and rear. Moreover, lacking a revolving turret the whole vehicle had to be "aimed" at the target (apart from a few degrees of sideways gun traverse). It took great situational awareness and tactical experience to sneak up on a group of tanks in a Stug, shoot at them from cover, and escape.
were much more accurate in their firing than any of the other German tanks and tank destroyers
In part that was because (being originally designed as fortification assault guns) they tended to fight as much shorter ranges (also because their armour was much, much better than the other tank destroyers - most of which had an open cupola with fairly thin armour).
They were still classified as Panzers and driven by the Panzer regiments.
Surely it would be a net saving by sending the "commander" of each single drone's crew to get their PPL - £10k - or even a gliding "get to solo" course - £2k-ish - so they have an understanding of the basics of flight
Either that, or on the control screen flash up in big, high-contrast letters some message like: "Landing aborted, flying around for another try", smaller explanatory text: "This aircraft touched down too far along the runway to safely stop before going off the end. Therefore it has engaged its automatic landing abort system to return to the air and fly around for another attempt".
But instead I guess they displayed a message more like: "Error landing. [A]bort, [R]etry, [F]ail?"
'Surely it would be a net saving by sending the "commander" of each single drone's crew to get their PPL - £10k - or even a gliding "get to solo" course - £2k-ish - so they have an understanding of the basics of flight and why an aircraft may be landing long or just doing something that'
They are doing something along those lines already. What I'm not sure about because I haven't read the full report is whether it was the Army flying it or Thales own pilots, the latter doing most of the flying out of Aberporth. Thales pilots as far as I know are all qualified in actual aircraft already...
The important difference between Watchkeeper and Air Force drones like Global Hawk is the mentality of the organisation.
In the Air Force, flying is done by Flying Officers, emphasis on Officer. To fly a drone you must be a properly qualified pilot with many hours in the cockpit. Air force drone user interfaces are designed on that assumption; the pilot is controlling the drone second by second, steering it on the correct course and altitude while monitoring airspeed and responding to any unusual situations as pilot in control. The Air Force will not buy a drone which does not require a pilot to fly it.
In the army, operating machinery is done by enlisted men (OK, maybe a few enlisted women as well). Officers have more important things to do. If it is complicated machinery then there may be a two week training course during which time you learn the drill. Hence the Watchkeeper user interface is designed on the assumption that it is going to be operated by someone who doesn't know how to fly, but can press the right buttons. The user enters waypoints on a map using click and drag as instructed by an officer who has decided what needs to be patrolled or surveilled, and the drone handles the aviation part. The Army will not buy a drone which requires a pilot to fly it.
So when something unexpected happens the Watchkeeper operator has no pilot's training to fall back on. Maybe at some point during the 2-week training course the sergeant instructor mentioned what to do if it takes off again after trying to land, but trying to remember exactly what the drill was a year later when it's never happened before is a bit too much to expect. Much easier to decide its gone out of control and hit the kill switch before it reaches somewhere populated.
The Air Force will not buy a drone which does not require a pilot to fly it.
Hardly surprising given that most decision makers in the Airforce are ex-aircrew and are naturally biased toward they own kind
In the Air Force, flying is done by Flying Officers
Of course you may remember that many Battle of Britain pilots were sergeants as were many Lancaster pilots, their performance wasn't any different to the commissioned ones.
emphasis on Officer
You have more confidence in the officer class than I do having worked with the forces rather than in them. I did a technical course once while contracting to the Navy, the first 3 places in the results went to the civilians, then an Able Seaman, followed by a Petty Offices with the 3 Officers bringing up the rear by a long way. That's not to say all Officers are dumb, but there is no reason to assume that they are better at things than the NCOs.
Probably the answer to situations like this is regular simulator training, just like the Airforce and civilian aircrew and drone operators do.
I think you are correct that there is a culture aspect to it, but not how you describe, more the culture within the Royal Artillery is causing issues. As a corps, these guys were formed to lob shells out of large bang sticks not fly aircraft, I would wager it would be a different story if these were 'flown' by the Army Air Corps (AAC) who are almost certainly better equipped mentally to take on drone operations with fixed wings, even if they only operate rotary at the moment.
Having served in the Army, I can say your piece about things going awry because there isn't an officer in control is bollocks, the AAC have plenty of pilots that aren't commissioned and do a superb job, in fact the only reason the RAF only use officers as pilots is because they didn't trust even enlisted personnel with a nuclear payload. This is of course back in the cold war times before the military as whole started to trust and ultimately empower the lowest ranks, probably why you don't need to be commissioned to fly in the Army.
Officers within the Army, less the teeth arms, are essentially middle managers pushing paper, this is why soldiers at the lowest level are empowered to work with autonomy or little direction to high standards in their skillset, in my experience things go wrong because an officer got involved
The RAF on the flip side gives their officers decent training in their field of expertise so when they are not managing they can be employed to do an actual job. This has a trade off which I have experienced first hand from working with the RAF, if you're below Cpl/Sgt they see you as just a name tag that needs their hand held and can't be trusted to give a valid opinion.
Just my thoughts and experiences on the matter, apologies for the long winded reply.
Thanks for the reply. I must admit this was second hand information, so sorry for any errors.
I never meant to suggest that this happened merely because the Watchkeeper wasn't being flown by an officer, more that it wasn't being flown by a pilot. As you point out, the two are not synonymous.
in fact the only reason the RAF only use officers as pilots is because they didn't trust even enlisted personnel with a nuclear payload
It goes way back before the nuclear age - the WW1 RFC only let officers fly planes because they were assumed to be more intelligent and better educated than the enlisted ranks (being derived mostly of gentleman/noble stock rather than commoners).
It may have found another reason in the nuclear age but the habits started way before then.
>the WW1 RFC only let officers fly planes because they were assumed to be more intelligent and better educated than the enlisted ranks
Promotion was automatic on qualification - plenty started from humble beginnings, observer, mechanic etc. James TB McCudden for instance - probably the greatest British pilot of WW1.
Those pages in the manual "intentionally left blank" ? They're actually printed with lines so that the operators can make a paper (aeroplane) version of the drone and use that to practice gliding with. Sometimes these models have been known to last a couple of attempts, unlike the real thing.
Interestingly enough, some years back, when it came to US drones, the outcome was somewhat opposite. (not sure if Reapers or Predators, but same model in the study).
USAF: certified pilots, they control landings
US Army: specialized NCOs, drone software auto-lands. Fewer crashes.
IIRC landing was statistically _the_ leading cause of drone loss. Related: Predator drones provides exceedingly narrow “tunnel vision” to its operator - their cameras are geared to long distance zooms for observation/missile launches, not wide field of view for self-positioning. I say “had” because maybe they’ve added auxiliary sensors.
Not disagreeing with you. Different services, different drones.
"The user enters waypoints on a map using click and drag as instructed by an officer who has decided what needs to be patrolled or surveilled..."
... or blown up.
Surely you're not going to try to tell us that the Army would spend good taxpayers' money on kit that can't kill anyone?
"The Air Force will not buy a drone which does not require a pilot to fly it."
On the other side of the pond where the US Army and the USAF fly the same kit, but one group are hands on (USAF) and the other group have strict orders NOT to touch the kit whilst it's landing or taking off (Army), the human-flown units have a substantially higher rate of landing crashes.
The problem here isn't that the Watchkeeper operators intervened, but that they weren't told to leave it the fuck alone during the landing cycle and specifically _not_ to try and second-guess it.
In the case of real, honest to goodness "out of control", you should have a "Range Safety" option to blow the wings off/fire the recovery chute - and be prepared to explain to the board of enquiry why you hit that big red "bugout" button when you did.
Officers have more important things to do
Well obviously - that Chablis doesn't drink itself y'know!
Arrrrgh! Not a word! "Surveyed" or "reconnoitered". 'Surveiled" is a US-derived abomination that has no place in proper English.
Much like "payed" or "shined". Adding an 'ed' onto the present-tense form of a verb does not make it past tense.
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After closure of the DSM coal mines in 1965 some miners were reschooled to work as process engineers in the chemical plants of DSM. They found that very difficult because these men, used to work with their hands, were now supposed to monitor a automated factory (think 100 million tonnes of NH3 p.a.) and not to touch a button unless something went wrong.
That got quite problematic in their North section as they have a little factory there called "ACN" which makes the product that ensures that plexiglass doesn't go yellow over time: cyanide.
When you work there, you get issued an emergency mask that you have to keep with you at all times, and there is one rule: when the alarm goes, you put it on and you do NOT take it off unless directed by security personnel not wearing a mask themselves.
They had a leak, and someone bailed out of the factory onto the nearby open field, thinking that that was safe - some of these people think they know better. I think he left a wife and two children behind when he took off his mask there and took one breath.
How do I know? I was in the cleanup crew going into the factory to fix the leak as I was certified on lots of safety equipment. It got me into a lot of interesting places and efforts such as building a scaffold with brass tools in South right next to a gas leak spewing *very* combustable gas so it could be fixed (being sprayed with water to avoid any rather annoying sparks), and in this case it was assisting the few mechanics that were still willing to go after the death of this good man.
Fun fact: that factory still exists, still operates and is still pretty much on top of the nearby town. If things go wrong, life won't end there with the sort of window destroying kaboom they had in South in 1975, the only sound you'll hear when this happens is sirens - for the rest it'll be quiet. There is, of course, lots of passive and active safety there like basins and automatic water curtains so it's managed (and they've been at it for several decades now) but to be honest, I still would not want to live there.
That said, they do learn. Analysis of the aforementioned kaboom changed the architecture of subsequent plants so that a gas leak (the explosive) would always blow away from the ovens (the ignition), but they had to do a number of things to keep regulators sweet.
I'm guessing that's why they also started making aspartame :).
The next flight, tie one of the 'operators' to the airframe. Give him a little box which gives him a shock when someone on the ground tries to override the aircraft AI. There should also be a little button which will override the override. If, in the opinion of the laddie tied to the airframe, the AI was doing things correctly, he can killswitch any interference from the ground.
After the first two or three crash I'm sure that all surviving 'operators' will get the hang of things.
Alternatively, have the runway line up with the officer commanding's quarters, so that if the aircraft lands long the OC gets a present. This should improve the OC's attitude towards 'operator' training.
Icon is what happens when the OC is unpopular.
> The MoD refused to supply The Register with a copy of the same report.
Note that the MoD publishes all the information which it supplies in response to FOI requests, though it seems to be delayed by about a month: FOI responses released by the Ministry of Defence: 2019 [gov.uk]
The fundamental question though is surely what allows them to respond to the BBC and not to the Register? If the Information is Free, why not send a copy to anybody and everybody that requests it?
Can El Reg please publish the response they got from the MoD. Plus any analysis they may wish to offer.
Have you ever looked at MOD supply chains. The lastest gun (SA80) started delevopment in 1969 and was put into service in 1987.
It took 20 years to design, test (not very well) and put into production a gun. How long do you think this took to design, test and put into production?
I was going to comment that they seem to have justified purchasing drones because everyone else uses them, and then cut some important options out to "save money". In the fine tradition of Defence spending.
However the army vs airforce discussion upstream suggests that they may just have gone "Why would we need that?".
The Army didn't want the Watchkeeper, they wanted one of the alternatives in the "competition" to decide who got to supply the drones - mainly because they wanted something that could actually do the job required rather than just the parts the beancounters in Whitehall thought important (not wanting to be reliant on the French was another factor). Unfortunately the beancounters and the Francophiles got their way and the Army ended up with a piece of junk, as usual.
Having had this lame excuse for a lawn dart handed to them, they are now working their way through reducing the inventory in the only way available to them. :-)
Surely if PARIS (and the early LOHAN tests) taught us anything, it was how attractive trees are to model aircraft and suchlike.
So obviously what we have here is just a stronger version of that, as the aircraft involved is much bigger and more expensive.
And it's also perhaps another justification to jump-start LOHAN (ooer missus) so further research can be done into this phenomenon.
Once again the sage advice of Lester is sorely missed...
Oh dear! It's always hard to be sure on El Reg, but I have a horrible feeling you mean it seriously.
Meatbag: A derogatory name for humans or other biological beings used by non-biological beings (i.e. robots). From the Urban Dictionary, https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Meat%20Bag. Attributed to the robot Bender and the killer droid HK-47.
So a highly appropriate term in the context of a crash caused by a human being overriding the judgement of a machine. I would offer Garth Corfield a pint (of oil, naturally), but the icon might get confusing.
"The derogatory term 'meatbags' is not a term I expect to see a professional soldier addressed as, especially in The Reg."
Take it you've not hung out with any grunts recently then :D
Meatbag is not really any sort of insult, in my experience. Ignoring the obvious KOTOR/Futurama references, I've come across as the affectionate term for the larger squaddies* who usually got to hump the extra kit. Even meathead isn't too bad, sort of implies a preference for concrete rather than abstract reasoning or general bullish approach to solving things.
Bags of other things certainly imply an insult. Wind, shit, dirt, scum, rat, dicks etc. eg: The scumbags at Crapita conspired with some dirtbags at MoD to outsource recruiting, they all should eat a big bag of dicks because of those shitbags we're short of meatbags to defend our country and it's allies.
Never served myself. Friends and family have. Trying to insult a soldier is a bit like trying to shock a nurse. Can be entertaining, but if your day job is actual life and death, and your mistake is probably going to get someone you know killed, you get a different sense of humour :)
If you're on the back end, at least you get to wear cammies in the office without looking like a Walter Mitty.
*in the same vein as calling a big bloke Little John or Tiny, or the guy who lost a leg Long John Silver etc
The CES for Watchkeeper should contain card printed as follows.
ALLES SOLDATEN UND NONTEKNISCHEN LOOKENSPEEPERS!
DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN! ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKEN.
IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
ZO RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN.