Monday, May 07, 2012

"Look Mom, No Pilot!" The Next Bull Economy

Graveyards transmit a sadness and a loneliness.  The morbid thought that you are no longer useful, that the world will go on without you and forget you forever lords over us like a vulture.  This is true for man and it is true for machines.

Tucson, Arizona is home to the United States Air Force Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center known to many of the locals here as the Boneyard. The Boneyard off of Kolb is the central depot for all US military planes deemed obsolete, 'pulled out of service' and 'put into storage.'

I remember passing the lifeless aircraft hooded like sleeping falcons.  Their reflections passed across my face with the sad thought that no honors were paid to these able sentinels nestled inside democracy's arsenal.  It just seemed like a waste.  Sometimes these birds go back into circulation not in the doomsday scenario's painted in my mind of a World War III but rather as servant to some "Allied" aid package to one of our son of bitch instead of theirs.

And sometimes 'the remains are sold to nearby scrappers.'

Now the question arises is Unmanned Commercial Flight possible?  Unmanned commercial flight is not only possible, the question is why hasn't Unmanned commercial flight attended to cash paying customers?

Invariably the same culprit in savior's clothing drops his calling card, "We are from the government, and we are here to help."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not helping but instead serving the interests of the status quo who does not want competition cutting into their bottom lines.  We see evidence of this not only in their lethargy of UAV regulation, but also in Air Traffic Control (ATC) modernization and privatization.  Do we trust the Federal Government to come up with wise and innovative regulations to inaugurate a new day in the Space Age?  One might need a Vegas vacation to answer that question tactfully.

Much of daily life is automated and the prospect of flight entering into that automation intrigues many consumers. The military has proven this technology to be a very useful tool. Unmanned passenger flight is untested but why not automate air freight?

Critics label Visual Flight Rules (VFR) as a main obstacle to Unmanned Commercial flight.  But VFR does not stop the predator from killing Al Queda's # 3 whoever that is this week.  It should stop us from shipping flowers to our sweetheart or getting that autographed football from eBay?  Further VFR is illegal at above 18,000 feet - should that be the a prime air lane for Unmanned Commercial Flight?

Unaddressed are the technical limitations to UAV flight such as the 4 second delay between UAV operator and the drone aircraft.  But Caterpillar overcame a similar problem in developing its Minestar System with Global Positioning System (GPS) inaccuracy by adding fixed bay stations to calculate GPS coordinates to the centimeter.  Also the UAV ground operator can communicate with his drone Line Of Sight as well.  What frequencies will we designate for Unmanned Flight? Why not let the market decide?  America still graduates some of the finest technical minds whose creativity and ingenuity have a proven track record.  Any variety of solutions point the way of what can be done.  

Didier Lenormand, Airbus
Didier Lenormand, Director of Air Freight for Airbus wrote boldly that Air Freight is a growth business, with volume tripling in the next twenty years.  60% of that growth will come east to west rather than north to south meaning that longer intercontinental aircraft will be tasked for these markets.  What better and more logical innovation is there than an UAV avionics modification?  Mr. Lenormand's estimates hold true in a global depression and when Jet Fuel is $135/barrel.  Think of what will happen when the American economy roars back as it did in 1983 with 4.3% and 7.3% in 1984?  What will happen to Unmanned Commercial Air Freight when crude sells at $11.91 a barrell like it did in 1998?  Further Didier Lenormand's calculations do not account for the UAV Commercial Freight.

Think of how many tons of goods could be shipped worldwide and with inflight refueling you could have a floating gas station. It would free up qualified pilots for passenger traffic and open up new jobs for UAV Commercial operators.

If we don't innovate out of common sense, or greed, perhaps we should do it out of fear.  What's going to happen in 2020, when we don't adapt this technology in 2020 when China's industrial output exceeds Europe?  If we don't someone else will.

How does this relate to Tucson and the Boneyard?  Tucson's Boneyard stretched 2,600 acres containing 4,200 aircraft with an inventory valued at $ 42 billion.

If Lockheed Martin were to sell Uncle Sugar a C-141 Starlifter brand new, it would cost the taxpayer $ 42 million dollars.  But an American company could not buy a C-141 off of  Only foreign governments can buy what is sitting in our scrapyard collecting dust.

Tucson is uniquely positioned to exploit the coming Unmanned Commercial Air Freight Boom. Tucson is home to ten airports.  Arizona is home to 4 aircraft boneyards and Tucson is home to 2 of them. We have UAV operators and pilots from Davis Monthan.  We have avionics technicians for Manned and Unmanned aircraft.  Sierra Vista, Arizona at Fort Huachuca is home to the UAV pilot school and home to the Homeland Security Border Drone Base.  The University of Arizona has graduates some of the best computer programmers, information system professionals and electrical engineers in the world.  These highly skilled workers, engineers, managers and entrepreneurs would never have to leave Arizona.

We have thousands of square acres of unused inventory to make up this coming air freight boom.   If the government would allow its citizens to acquire aircraft destroyed and sold for scrap such as the C-141, C-130 and the B-52 provided it be converted for civilian use.  If the government would allow Unmanned Commercial Flight, we could see the largest peacetime economic boom to this economy since the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.


Anonymous said...

So many of the comparisons you make in this article are akin to apples&oranges. Comparing the VFR conditions in a 'warzone' to that of the airspace in the U.S. I think one of them results in non-participants being shot down. Kinda gives the military drone a edge, don't you think?

Let the market decide what frequencies should be used for UAVs? Why didn't they do that with AM/FM radio, telivision, or similar?

The article has so many holes in it non of the conclusions make any sense.

Don't mean to be antagonistic, but we need to think clearly through this and details matter.

James A. Bretney said...

Too much has not been said that should be said for fear of being too antagonistic. You have read my blog, given my thoughts serious consideration and given voice to those thoughts.

Manna from heaven

That said, without a name or specifics it is hard to respond to your individual points. The fact that you don't think it is viable is a legitimate point, that others agree with you is fine, but the government standing in the way of that viability is not valid. And that is the problem with your argument. RFK said there are others who ask why, and RFK responded by saying why not?

That is the real thrust of this article. Sorry it was lost on you.