Unmanned aircraft are getting quite a bit of attention lately, but that's not a bad thing. Even if they are, essentially, a pretty basic and straight forward, they've still got the potential to be some of the most advanced pieces of technology running around in the world at any given moment. Flying your robot around is great if you want it to listen to everything you say, but if you want it to start thinking for yourself, well, that's when things get tricky. But that's not stopping the Air Force from exploring their options, and obviously free-thinking drones are high on the priority list.
One of the most crowded and intrinsically complicated places in the world of flight is the airport. Always busy, and always at the mercy of logistics, timing, and the ever-present entities within the Air Traffic Control towers, that's why unmanned aircraft have not been allowed anywhere near them. With all of the information that needs to be processed -- between ATC, pilots, ground crew, and the aircraft both on the ground and in the air, at the moment it's just impossible for any drone to process all of that information in a reliable fashion. But the Air Force wants to change that.
The branch of the United States military wants to reach out to engineers, and ultimately develop an algorithm that would allow for drones to seamlessly integrate with piloted aircraft, as well as ATC and ground crews. They want this done so that the drone can land and take off safely. The drones would be connected to a huge database of terminal procedures, which would then allow those drones to make decisions on their own, "recognize the intent of other aircraft," as well as navigate the congestion of the airport without endangering the lives of crew and passengers.
The algorithm would be specifically designed to make drones process complex information and scenarios, just as our "true" pilots do. There's no timeline for something like this, but considering we've already got unmanned aircraft that can think for themselves in some regard, then it would look to us like something of this nature will be right around the corner. Anyone want to be on the first publicly-accessible passenger jet drone?