New UBS report reveals pilotless aircraft could save airlines $35bn a year

UPS cargo plane

Cargo aircraft could be the first to have pilots removed from the cockpit Credit Ed Turner

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.

As technology improves, however, younger people may be more likely to take a trip in a fully autonomous plane, UBS notes.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is planning to test cargo planes that can fly by remote control, using technology similar to those of autonomous-driving cars, starting next year.

"It is likely we would initially see cargo the first subsector to adopt new related technologies".

Commercial flights already land with the assistance of on-board computers, and pilots manually fly the aircraft for only a few minutes on average.

The shift has the potential to save the aviation industry huge amounts of money.

"The average percentage of total cost and average benefit that could be passed onto passengers in price reduction for the US airlines is 11%", the report said, noting that savings in Europe would be less.

Acceptance to fly pilotless also varied by country.

Pilotless planes could not only be a future method of transport, but an economically-beneficial one too, according to new research by Swiss bank UBS which claims that they could save airlines billions of dollars.

A move to pilotless planes would boost industry profitability, UBS said.

Airlines in the Middle East and China, where air traffic is growing fast, are offering huge paychecks to attract more pilots and salaries in the US are rising too.

Assuming these costs are passed onto the consumer, UBS believes passengers could see airfares cut by as much as 11% for United States flights, but just 4% in Europe.

Still, there is likely to be major resistance to taking pilots out of the cockpit.

At least that's the conclusion reached by a new survey of 8,000 people in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

The number of people jetting overseas on holiday could fall sharply if they had to board pilotless planes, a survey by financial services firm UBS suggests.

Aside from customer viewpoints towards pilotless planes, the bank also noted that there would be "design, security and technological challenges" facing the idea of making this a reality, along with the need for more regulation in this area. Two pilots should be present at all times, and if one of them needs to take a break, another member of the crew has to take his or her spot.

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