Pilotless planes could cut fares for passengers, study finds

Xavier Trudeau
Août 7, 2017

The "next big transformation in the aviation industry" could be pilotless planes, according to Doug Davis, the Director of the Unmanned Aircraft Program at New Mexico State University.

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

Just as we were beginning to get used to the inevitability of driverless cars, another, rather scarier transport sector is about to go automatic: step forward, the pilotless plane, which researchers at UBS believe could be ubiquitous by 2040 - saving airlines $35bn (£27bn) a year.

A wider survey including respondents in the US, France, Germany and Australia found that this figure dropped to 41% and 40% for those aged 18-24 and 25-34 respectively.

Nearly three-quarters of the economic benefit would be in airlines reducing the cost of employing pilots, the study found. 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".

With pilotless planes are now being trialed, analysis by the Swiss bank suggested they could be used commonly for air taxis and cargo flights by the 2020s, before spreading into business jets and helicopters by the 2030s. "For this reason, pilotless cargo aircraft may happen more swiftly than for passengers".

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