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Flight Control Systems



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.)


Navigational Computers


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.


Inertial Dampening Field


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


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.


Manual Steering Consoles


Some ships come equipped with Manual Steering Controls (MSC) for use in situations where precise flying is absolutely necessary (typically, this means some starship combat situations). The types and styles range from ship to ship, from type to type of each ship. Larger vessels have one to several multiple columns for command officers or retractable controls at the Flight Control officer’s disposal activated from the helm console. Some smaller ships, particularly fighters and advanced shuttles, have multiple ‘hand-on’ controls that give them a ‘feel’ of the vessel they’re flying, which most experienced pilots prefer instead of relying strictly upon a computer or ‘tapping’ panels to fly their vessels.


Neurogenic Interface


A neurogenic interface is a seldom used piece of technology by the Federation, but, not unheard of. The system works by interfacing directly with a pilot’s brain. This allows her/him to operate flight control, sensors, ops, and other systems by thought alone, which greatly improves reaction time and ship responsiveness. The Breen have been known to use these devices for their senior staff aboard their warships, and, as observed in combat, give them excellent maneuverability and steering response as well as other system controls over their counterpart opponents (Starfleet learned this lesson all too well).


Neurogenic interfaces are not perfect, however. In many cases they cause the user to experience hallucinations that the ship is a ‘real person’, which talks to them, become addicted to using the system, or suffer neurological damage. This is particularly likely when the pilot using the system is not of the same species as the interface unit was designed for. Though, Starfleet has taken calculated strides to stem this problem. One in particular is the development of the bio-synthoid unit aboard the Ascendant, which can interface with the ships systems along the same principles of a humanoid person, but the synthoid is specifically designed to handle the large amounts of stress that may occur. META exo-armors also have a neurogenic interface to facilitate communications between ships and between their units, as well as regulate armor servo movements to correlate with the users thoughts to increase their combat effectiveness, but even this system is still being tested diligently.