Pilotless Planes Fear Could Prevent Commercial Roll Out
The new technology has been criticised by customers who remain sceptical of pilotless vehicles.
Although Airbus has developed the ability to fly passenger jets without pilots, public fears and regulatory concerns about the technology are preventing a commercial roll out.
Speaking at the Paris Air Show this week, Christian Scherer, the chief commercial officer for Airbus, said that autonomous aircrafts can now be safely operated. However, he highlighted that the main challenge for Airbus is to build confidence in the technology.
He said: “It’s a matter of interaction with the regulators, the perception in the travelling public. When can we introduce it in large commercial aircraft? That is a matter we are discussing with regulators and customers, but technology-wise, we don’t see a hurdle.”
The UK Government is currently assessing how best to regulate the space. The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), part of both the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, have recently begun to increase their focus on pilotless aircraft.
According to the Drone Major Group, the CCAV had recently been concerned with how to manage the “take off” of an autonomous vehicle.
Meanwhile the US aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, is also thought to be in the process of deciding what standards should be set, with acting chief Daniel Elwell last week stating there was a “whole new bucket of stuff to keep me awake at night”.
However, Airbus is not the only firm looking at pilotless jets, with Boeing’s prototype autonomous air taxi having completed its first pilotless test in Virginia, US, earlier this year.
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Speaking at its Elevate conference last week, Uber also revealed its aspirations to launch an autonomous air taxi service. The ride-hailing company said that these airborne pilotless electric vehicles will be available to the public by 2023.
The vast majority of flights are still handled manually, even if many modern planes are capable of auto-landing, while all commercial take-offs are performed by the pilot.
As it stands, the public remains sceptical about the launch of automated planes following the two fatal crashes of Boeing’s 737 Max 8 between October 2018 and March this year.
Last year, Swiss investment bank UBS conducted a study that revealed that the number of those not willing to fly in autonomous jets had risen.
Approximately two thirds of airline passengers would be “unlikely to fly in a pilotless plane”, while more than half would not want to fly in a plane with just one pilot.