Economy

Pilotless Planes Could Save Billions - If People Are Willing To Get On

Pilotless Planes Could Save Billions - If People Are Willing To Get On

People in countries like Germany and France were unlikely to be receptive to the self-flying aircraft, while respondents in the US were more open to the idea. Overall, only 17 percent said they would be likely to take an uncrewed flight, but that percentage rose to 27 percent when reducing the sample size to those aged 18-24, and 31 percent with those aged 25-34.

It could be just the thing the airline industry needs: A recent report from a pilot training company said 255,000 new airline pilots must be added over the next 10 years in order for airlines to sustain the growth and support retirements of current pilots.

"It's very much automated in flight but on the ground, when you are taxi-ing that you are relying on 1940s and 1950s technology with verbal radio commands and people waving coloured light wands", Mr Robinson said.

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"Perhaps surprisingly, half the respondents said they would not buy the pilotless ticket even if it was cheaper", said UBS Evidence Lab report.

In fact, airlines in China and the Middle East, where the airline industry is growing far faster than in Europe and the US, are readily paying hefty bonuses to hire pilots.

The research says that pilotless planes could save airlines over $30 billion a year in costs between fuel gains related to optimized flight paths, and elimination of pilots and training.

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"The basic building blocks of the technology clearly are available", Mike Sinnett, Boeing's vice president of product development, told Reuters in June.

And two Norwegian companies are now creating the world's first autonomously operated container ship. Wages and training costs have been rapidly rising at regional USA airlines over the last several years as the major airlines have hired pilots from the regionals at unprecedented rates to cover increased air travel demand from economic expansion and a wave of retirements pushed back when the FAA raised the mandatory retirement age for Part 121 pilots.

UBS analysts expect the effort to familiarize the public with commercial self-piloting crafts will begin at that 2025 target date with autonomous cargo planes, which could demonstrate how the systems can safely fly from point A to B without a hitch. "Having a pilot on the aircraft who is as much at risk as the passengers is probably the surest guarantee of safety there can be".

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