Technology 3 min read

Autonomous Planes are Coming Sooner Than you Think

Our skies are becoming more crowded by the day. With that, autonomous planes could provide a solution to the global demand for air travel. | Image By Jag_cz |

Our skies are becoming more crowded by the day. With that, autonomous planes could provide a solution to the global demand for air travel. | Image By Jag_cz |

Recently we’ve heard a lot about driverless cars and how they are the future of transportation. You could even have been fortunate enough to ride in one. But, a pilotless plane is a bit of a novelty.

Yet, this idea is not as far-fetched as you might think. With planes practically flying themselves and advances in drone technology, pilotless aircraft may be on the horizon. In fact, Boeing and Airbus are in a race to develop the AI systems that’ll enable computers to fly planes.

According to the Chief Technological Officer of Airbus, Grazia Vittadini, the aviation giant hopes that advancements in AI will eventually support autonomous planes.

“That’s what we’re looking into, artificial intelligence, to free up pilots from more mundane routines,” the CTO further explained.

With the current (and possibly future) pilot shortages, the need for an autonomous plane could not be more urgent.

The Current Pilot Shortage

No matter what way analysts look at it, a pilot shortage crisis is looming. This is mainly due to the increase in flying hours required for commercial pilots from 250 to 1,500 hours. There’s also the current aging pilot workforce to consider.

Based on a projection by Boeing, the aviation industry will need 790,000 new pilots by 2037. Airbus’ forecast revealed that there could only be 450,000 pilots by 2035

Based on these figures, it becomes easier to identify the main problem; there’s a vast gap between demand and supply.

Autonomous planes are an effective way to deal with this growing issue.

Read More: Uber Reveals Their  Latest Flying Taxi Concept

Other Benefits of Autonomous Planes

Since Artificial Intelligence would replace two pilots, the first obvious advantage is a lower pilot cost. A 2017 estimation revealed that the industry spends over $30 billion on pilots annually.

Aside from saving on pilot costs, airlines can also make significant savings in fuel costs too. Autonomous planes are expected to be more efficient than the current system.

As impressive as this technology sounds, it’s not coming to us any time soon.

Challenges With Pilotless Planes


autonomous plane cockpit
Image By Mikko Ryynanen | Shutterstock

According to Vittadini, a major obstacle holding autonomous planes back is convincing regulators that the technology works.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, is convincing airline passengers that pilotless planes are safe.

A survey of 8,000 respondents shows that only 17 percent are happy to fly on a plane with no pilot. A significant 54 percent said that they would probably refuse to fly.

However, Airbus hopes that more passengers will eventually get used to the idea of autonomous planes. Until then, the technology is destined to end up in cargo planes.

Do you think the public will ever accept autonomous planes?

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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