You may not think that planes can be autonomous. But if you think about it, they are easier to automate than normal cars, for example. It’s easier to coordinates them so planes don’t crash into each other, and there are no foot passengers to consider.
Management of some of the biggest airplane manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus are convinced that fully autonomous passenger planes are the future. Latest airplanes are pretty autonomous as it is. Autopilots and other airplane systems have gotten to the point where they can do a lot of the work all by themselves. Human pilots are often there to oversee their functionality and work. Having said that, most experts believe current technology advancements are not sufficient to support fully autonomous planes. Pilots still need to be in the cabin.
Still, if we believe Boeing CEO, we’re not too far from the future where passenger planes will take off and land without human’s support.
Airbus is stepping up their automation game as well. They introduced DragonFly, to make Airbus pilots’ lives much easier. For example, DragonFly makes it much easier to fly around airports before you land. Usually this process takes a lot of time and energy from pilots, DragonFly helps with that.
There is also a startup that works on integrating direct autonomous flights, so they can be smoothly unloaded at the destination airports. All their flights are autonomous, and only controlled by employees from the ground. Eventually, it could be entirely free of any human intervention. Ameriflight, on the other hand, helps delivery services like FedEx fly autonomous planes.
Emergence of automated planes could have huge repercussions for the industry. Not only for passengers, but for flying cargo planes. Amazon already delivers a lot of products overnight, imagine what they could do if they had limitless access to skies.
With that being said, autonomous flights are more likely to affect cargo transports first, before it moves to passenger planes. That’s logical – we need to test their credibility on products before trusting automated planes with human passengers. It will also be difficult to convince people to fly these planes that don’t have any pilots.
Airlines pay a lot of money to pilots. Businesses, of course, want to cut down on that cost.
Many people are concerned about what this means for human pilots though. Don’t worry, they are not going to lose their jobs. Businesses work so hard to prove autonomous capabilities to entice FAA requirements. Currently the rule is that every commercial flight must have at least two pilots. If autonomous capabilities become advanced enough, it could lead to changes in this rule.
In general, I support the idea of helping people who become redundant as a result of technological advances. Eventually advances become the norm and new jobs appear in other areas, but individual humans should not suffer as a result of autonomous driving or flights.