Would you ever fly in an airplane without a pilot controlling things from the cockpit? It might surprise you to find out that seven out of 10 people would actually fly in a pilot-free plane. The number dips a bit lower when people were asked about flying in pilot-free planes within the next 10 years. Only 58 percent of people asked said that they would consider flying in a plane without a pilot within the next decade. People who were reluctant cited factors like poor weather and turbulence as reasons why they didn't fully trust technology to get them to their destinations safely.
The surprising survey regarding how people feel about pilot-free planes was conducted by a software firm called Ansys. The firm is currently working on technology that creates digital replicas of how planes react in various weather and environmental conditions.
Pilot-free air travel may be arriving sooner than most of us expect. A new system called Safe Return is being developed to make pilot-free landings possible. In fact, Safe Return is currently in the final stages of being approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The goal of Safe Return isn't to replace human pilots. The system is instead designed to safely land planes in situations where pilots become incapacitated or emergencies arise. Safe Return uses databases full of information regarding terrain and potential obstacles to create automatic navigational decisions. In addition, the system is informed of fuel levels, nearby airports and potential spots for emergency landings. Safe Return can determine a proper path before using text-to-speech technology to alert air traffic controllers to its whereabouts.
Where will pilot-free airplane technology take us? We're still a long way off from a world where human pilots are replaced by robots. However, Safe Return and similar technology trends are flying us toward a world where even a pilot-free plane can make a safe landing.