Re: meat aboard the roton

Steve VanSickle (
Wed, 26 May 1999 08:53:02 -0500 (CDT)

Look over the paper

Safety and the Roton Development Program, IEEE 99-063 445

available at:

It gives an overview of the developement program and covers their reasoning behind a manned vehicle.

Short story is:

  1. If you look at all types of aircraft, manned systems are orders of magnitude more reliable than unmanned as well as being cheaper to develope.
  2. The Roton is aerodynamically stable in all flight regimes, so it is possible for all abort situations to be flown manually. This is *much* less expensive that trying to develope an automated abort or writing off the vehicle every time something goes wrong, Since it is impossible for a programmmer to forsee all possible problems, it is also much safer.
  3. The roton is incrementally flight tested, starting with short hovers and gradually expanding the velocity and altitude flight by flight until orbit is achieved. This is how a conventional aircraft is tested, is much safer than the current "all or nothing" method, and is extremely difficult or impossible to automate. Even teleoperation introduces questionable time lags and greatly increased costs.
  4. The FAA regulations are much friendlier to manned than unmanned craft. For some reason, they seem to feel that a person can exercise better judgment in an emergency than a machine.

It seem to me that all this leads to a vehicle that, while not as safe as a commercial airliner or even a military craft, will be orders of magnitude safer than the converted artillary pieces we use today. Even in flight test, due to incremental test, it may be safer. It is certainly true that, for the pilot, it is much safer to stay home in bed, but is it really worth hundreds of millions of dollars in extra costs? And *added* risk to the public? When there are test pilots lined up around the block willing to fly it?