Published: Tue, August 08, 2017
Money | By Armando Alvarado

The Morning Brew: Is the era of pilot less airliners coming?

The Morning Brew: Is the era of pilot less airliners coming?

The only fly in the ointment may be persuading people to board pilotless flights in the first place: research by UBS suggested more than half of respondents said they'd be "unlikely" to take a pilotless flights, while only 17 per cent said they are definitely up for it. Overall, the Swiss bank said that there could be US$26 billion in pilot cost savings for commercial airline firms alone. They're called drones. But CNN recently featured a story about the idea of airliners without pilots.

"It's not hard to make an aircraft fly under computer control - it's on the ground that is the challenge", he said pointing to the billions being spent by vehicle companies to develop self-driving technology.

Pilotless planes could even reduce fares, making them an attractive option for many travelers. It also found that only 54 percent of people would agree to take a pilotless flight, including just 17 percent of travelers from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia.

"It is likely we would initially see cargo the first subsector to adopt new related technologies".

Commercial flights already land with the assistance of on-board computers, and pilots manually fly the aircraft for only a few minutes on average.

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"The technologies in development today will enable the aircraft to assist and back up the pilot in all the flight phases, removing the pilot from manual control and systems operations in all types of situations", the report said.

A number of aviation companies and technology startups are already tackling autonomous flight, with plans to offer self-flying "robotaxis" by the middle of the next decade. Alternatively, if the cost savings were entirely passed to consumers, tickets could cost much less (11% cheaper in the U.S.).

Delving into the survey's numbers, UBS stated that in terms of willingness to embark on a pilotless plane, younger participants between the age of 18 and 34 appeared more inclined, with 30 per cent willing to try out the experience. Just 17% of respondents, who were from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia, said they would buy the ticket.

That combination is driving up costs and forcing airlines to pay more to keep pilots and to attract new ones. Two pilots should be present at all times, and if one of them needs to take a break, another member of the crew has to take his or her spot.

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