Ultimately, starships are vehicles—a way physically to get from one part of the galaxy to another. That means they have many systems for steering or maneuvering them, or to assist related tasks such as navigation.
In situations when a ship’s pilot or pilots are disabled or cannot fly the ship, the autopilot can be activated. Using sophisticated computer subroutines, the autopilot flies the ship. The most advanced autopilot systems are as good, or better than, the average humanoid pilot
A new system, installed only aboard ships equipped with holo-emitter grids on every deck, is the Emergency Autopilot Hologram (EAH). Once activated, the hologram assumes the vacant flight control station and begins to operate the system via standard user interface and responds to commands along the same lines as the vaunted EMH and LMH programs, equipped with advanced optronic data storage and multitronic neural pathways to make the program adaptive and comprehensive of new situations, although, extremely limited in overall capability in comparison to an EMH. The EAH abilities are comprised of thousands of tactical flight maneuver subroutines, as well as the personal experience of over 137 pilots into one cohesive database.
(EAH costs only 1 SU in addition to autopilots skill-rating totals, and is a fully integrated component of the autopilot system.)
Because flight control is such an important aspect of ship operations, it has its own dedicated computer system, the navigational computer, to assist the Flight Control officer. The standard nav computer does not cost SU’s or power; it’s part of the bridge and related systems. But some ships, due to their engines or main computers or assigned missions, need better navigational computers to improve the Flight Control officer’s ability to fly the ship. This means uprating the nav computer.
Most ships have at least one backup navigational computer as well, to take over for the main nav computer if it’s damaged or malfunctioning.
The tremendous acceleration and deceleration involved with space travel and starship combat would be enough to cause fatal injury to everyone aboard the ship if not for the inertial dampening field (IDF). The IDF is a series of variable-symmetry force fields, which absorbs and counteracts the forces generated by starship travel. Although normally maintained at a low level throughout the ship, it can respond to data from Flight Control to ‘redistribute’ itself along vectors directly opposing the force generated (there is a millisecond delay while this occurs, so a drastic maneuver may cause crewmembers to stumble and fall out of their chairs). Thus, the crew on a ship usually feels a little, if anything, when the ship accelerates, decelerates, or maneuvers.
Starfleet protocols require a ship to have at least one main IDF generator for every two points of size; many vessels have more. It should also have at least one backup generator for every two main generators.
Attitude control, which is tied in to the navigational computer and flight control systems, helps to maintain the ship in an ‘upright’ position, with its axes properly oriented along its projected flight path. Without it, a ship will wobble, shake, yaw, and become difficult to steer properly. Even a strong IDF cannot compensate for the loss of the attitude control, which makes the ride uncomfortable for everyone aboard.