Published: Tue, August 08, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Who would be willing to fly in a pilotless plane? Hardly anyone

Who would be willing to fly in a pilotless plane? Hardly anyone

The results come at a time when airlines around the world face a shortage of pilots due to the addition of flights and the fact many pilots are retiring. While European passengers might only see a 4 percent reduction, the report says that "the average percentage of total cost and average benefit that could be passed onto passengers in price reduction for the United States airlines is 11 percent".

Aircraft costs and fuel make up a much larger proportion of costs at airlines than pilot salaries, but UBS said profits at some major airlines could double if they switched to pilotless. What is a customer's number one concern? In a seven-minute demonstration flight in South Africa, the "unmanned jet-propelled demonstrator ... flew completely autonomously ... on a pre-programmed course", the company said in a statement.

Back in June it emerged Boeing was mulling pilotless planes, with plans to try out its first models next year, and begin flights in 2025.

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Commercial jets can already take off, cruise and land using computer technology, enabling planes to land at some airports even in foggy conditions. The number of pilots needed for each flight could be reduced along the way.

Military technology is further advanced.

Safety would also be boosted as the potential for pilot error or illness would be removed, the report said.

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"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 auto companies to develop self-driving technology. "Indeed, today's drones are controlled by remotely based operators".

UBS said cargo would be the first to go pilotless.

The key to pilotless aircraft could be cargo aircraft, according to Mr Robinson. German and French respondents were the least likely to take a flight with no pilot (13 percent), while United States respondents were the most likely (27 percent). And right now, they're not. Wages and training costs have been rapidly rising at regional US 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.

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