The future of air travel could see aviation developers unveiling some pretty cool emerging technologies as far as self-piloted planes are concerned. With innovations in AI technologies and innovations in autonomously controlled motor vehicles, it’s no wonder aviation manufacturing giants like Airbus and Boeing are making attempts to develop pilotless, single or remote pilot aircraft.
The objectives overall serve to benefit not only the airline industry as a whole but also travelers who could see airfares slashed by up to 10 percent or more as a result of needing few crewmembers to operate an aircraft. Additionally, owners and operators would see their investments in these technologies leveraged against the need for fewer numbers of crew members and therefore could start reaping the rewards earlier than anticipated which could offset costs.
Not everyone is thrilled at the prospect however, opponents of autonomous of single-pilot planes say that the need for more than one crew member, pilots especially, far outweighs the risk associated with singularly piloted aircraft. They argue that if there were to be an incident, for example in the case of a pilot becoming incapacitated due to medical emergency, etc, who would pilot the plane. Proponents say that they have considered this and are working toward developing remote pilots to assist in the event of an emergency.
Currently the autonomous aircraft being developed are for short hops and proximity travel, Airbus is in the process of working on an urban taxi type of aircraft they call Vahana. The muli-propeller Vahana can fly up to 50 miles before needing a recharge on its battery. The aircraft is expected to take off on test flights this year and potentially be ready for launch in 2021.
On the other hand, Boeing is counting on developers to turn out technologies that make it possible for self flying interfaces that could potentially pilot passenger planes and airliners. They will begin testing their technology on flight deck simulators before testing it on an actual plane in 2019.
As for the impact autonomously piloted planes could have on the aviation industry and the ease of use for owners and operators of self-flying aircraft, the implications are relatively unknown at present, however, the benefits and drawbacks could both prove endless. At this stage, only time will tell. Industry insiders are predicting that this self-flying or autonomous types of travel could be integrated into the flight industry sooner rather than later.