Fully Automated Airline Flights Are Already a Reality

Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft

Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft

Apparently, large commercial airline pilots already spend less than 7 minutes actually controlling their plane, according to a recent survey.  Fully automated flight is pretty much already in place, including examples like the Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft.

The military has had pilotless drones for years, of course, and apparently there are now even auto collision avoidance systems on fighter jets that can take full control of the plane.  Moving to no pilots at all on commercial or even cargo flights may be a step too far, however.  A fighter pilot can eject, and a drone can be crash landed at relatively low risk to bystanders on the ground.  But a plane full of passengers (without parachutes!) is another matter.  Plus one — or better yet — two pilots can do a lot more troubleshooting a lot quicker than an AI system or remote pilot.  At least for now.

John Markof of the New York Times has interesting details and discussion.

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