Do you think dogs can fly airplanes? A TV series called Dogs Might Fly will train a Labrador dog to become a pilot!
The TV series seeks to prove that the memory and reasoning abilities of the brightest pets could be directed towards mastering the controls of a light aircraft. For this goal, Sky 1 is handpicking participant dogs from rescue centers.
Last week, amateur fliers at an airfield in London reported seeing a dog, that appeared to be a Labrador Retriever, strapped on to a flat-bed truck, grappling with aircraft-style controls until the pooch learned to drive the vehicle in circles.
The cable channel confirmed that the dog was indeed performing simulation training in preparation for a possible first flight.
The dogs were handpicked after Oxford Scientific conducted a nationwide-search across rescue centers. The group is working with a team of animal welfare specialists, dog cognition experts, and kennel hands to prepare the dogs for their flight experience.
The budding dog pilots will be given tasks to assess their communication skills, empathy, memory and reasoning.
“This sequence forms part of our project to look at dogs’ extraordinary ability,” Caroline Hawkins, creative director of Oxford Scientific Films, said. “The ultimate question is ‘could a dog fly a plane?’ so we have undertaken some training using an aircraft simulator.”
This experiment follows a 2012 exercise in which three dogs took turns in driving a Mini Countryman on their own on a race track in Auckland, New Zealand. Those driving dogs were trained to start the car, put it in gear and then drive 70 meters before pulling to a stop.
It has long been evident that dogs are smart creatures who can understand commands, routines, and words. But can dogs really be trained to handle the complexity of piloting a plane?
“We certainly know that dogs are hugely bright and trainable – often more capable than we think,” Hawkins said. “The series looks to find an answer to that question, in a safe and controlled way, which is enjoyable for the dogs. As training progresses, we’re looking forward to seeing if it might be possible for a dog to take control of an aircraft.”
While the experiment may sound dangerous for the dogs, Sky will not allow any of the participating dogs to get hurt.
“Of course it [a dog] couldn’t do this alone and, should we reach that stage, safety, wellbeing and the happiness of the animals would remain central to the project, as is the safety of the public, so the dog would be accompanied by a professional pilot and trainers,” Hawkins said.
Stanley Coren, emeritus professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, believes it is very unlikely that dogs will replace human pilots in the cockpit.
“I do consider dogs to be intelligent, with the average dog having a mental capacity equivalent to a two-and-a-half-year-old child, and the super dogs (those in the top 20 per cent of canine intelligence) perhaps reaching the equivalence of a human three-year-old,” Coren said. “Given that we would not expect a human three-year-old to be able to fly a plane, I would not expect that a dog could do so either.”
Source: The Independent UK