Flying is technically the safest way to travel. Even safer than driving your car, believe it or not. As technology advances, they’re becoming even more impressive and safer. However, would you fly on a plane that’s fully automatic?
Our air travel is becoming more and more sophisticated. From the likes of supersonic travel getting us half way across the world in minutes, to extremely responsive autopilot systems that could render pilots useless.
Or could it? In the same vein that we may see driver-less cars in the near future, there are talks by 2025 that pilots aren’t even going to be necessary for regular planes. Whilst this displays our confidence in artificial intelligence, is it actually safe?
First thing’s first – you may not know this, but planes tend to do a lot of flying themselves nowadays. Pilots are only necessary when it comes to the most crucial points in a flight, such as take-off and landing.
Apart from that, pilots are only really there to make sure everything is going okay. Autopilot takes care of all the work in the air, which is pretty amazing really.
As soon as 2025, 8 years from now, there’s a possibility that pilots won’t even be necessary anymore. This has come with a mixed reception, as many passengers aren’t quite convinced that a fully automated plane with no skilled pilot aboard is entirely trustworthy.
Despite many skilled pilots potentially losing their jobs, pilot-free planes means the industry could save up to £27 billion a year, with arguments claiming that it’s in fact safer than having somebody manually controlling the plane.
Reports indicate that 80% of aviation accidents are due to human error. That sounds like a lot of accidents but just remember, planes crash so rarely, that’s why when one does take a turn for the worst it’s all over the news. Because it’s such a rarity compared to say, a car crash.
Automated flights would also help towards the current pilot shortage, as 600,000 new pilots are needed by 2035 with more and more planes are taking to the sky.
It sounds great to the aviation industry, as they can save money and move forward with technology, but it may not be as effective as they hope. People actually have to be willing to catch these planes, and apparently a lot of people aren’t willing to do so.
8,000 people were surveyed by UBS on whether they’d be happy to travel in a fully automated plane and only 17% of them would be willing to do so. Even if it was cheaper, the thought of no skilled pilot aboard massively deters passengers.
Our drone technology is fairly impressive, and I believe that a fully automated flight would most definitely be safe. However, it most certainly is nerve-racking and it does open to its own problems. For example, a new angle for terrorists to hijack planes becomes open.
Cyber terrorists aren’t necessarily a work of fiction anymore. The potential to override an automated planes navigation system could lead to complete disaster.
Other worries that come to mind includes ability to handle emergency landings and mid-flight failures. Would an automated system know how to handle that? Or would it just shut out and leave all the passengers to their fate?
2009 saw an Air France flight crash and kill all 228 passengers on board. The planes automated system failed and the preceding pilot interaction failed to right the plane’s course. We certainly don’t want that to happen again, especially if there’s no pilot to at least attempt a recovery.
While automation in flights isn’t an entirely new prospect, most people appear to be against the idea of pilot-less planes. After what we’ve seen with driver-less cars so far, I can understand where they’re coming from.
Do you trust technology to get you to your destination safely? Or would you rather pay more to be on a flight with a skilled pilot aboard? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.