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Home > Airplanes > Will there be pilotless airliners in the future?
Will there be pilotless airliners in the future?
Aviation - Airplanes
Thursday, 22 August 2013 17:22

BAE Tests Pilotless Passenger Airplane

Greetings Sir,

Referring to the subject written above, I was wondering, would there be pilotless airliners coming up in the near future? Pilotless - meaning planes that are controlled from the ground.

I've read an anonymous blog that said pilotless airliners might even be introduced as soon as 2030. How far is that true? Also wondered, what roles/advantages do human pilots have over a fully automated plane controlled from the ground?

And to your opinion, would this be a good move? If this is implemented, how long do you think it would take to implement such a thing? 2030? 2040? 2060?

If so, should teenage boys whom aspire to be pilots worry considering if they get into this industry, they might be retrenched when this pilotless airliners thing come into effect?

I always thought that having a pilot on board is the safest option. What are your thoughts?

Hope to hear from you Sir.

Kind regards.


Hi David,

Yes, pilotless airliners would be a reality in the future. When in the future? It is hard to say.

Remember, the first elevator by Otis in 1924 had to be controlled by a uniformed man as no one would feel comfortable without him around. Today, no one needs a lift operator. Also, every train had an ‘engineer’ to guide the train from A to B. Today, many airlines terminals have robo-trains for intra-airport services without any human around.

Yes, automation has quietly taken over many life-and-death functions. In airplanes, automation has reduced the cockpit crew on the older aircraft from five to two. In the distant future, do we still need these two? Certainly not - perhaps a system operator!

This question has given rise to an industry joke that we only need a captain and a dog to operate an airliner in the future. Why the dog? Well, she is there to bark at the captain when he presses the wrong button. The captain’s last remaining job is to feed the dog

A pilotless airliner is a reality in the future but the question is when. It would start off with pilotless planes carrying cargoes only and probably flying over water and landing very close to shore. Through times when the system is perfected, one would get into a plane just like you would use an elevator!

If you think it is farfetched, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) are fighting the war at Afghanistan with pilotless drones. And what’s more, for the last 20 years, automatic landing systems have been able to position a plane and enable it to land safely on the fog-shrouded deck of an aircraft carrier whilst the ship is moving. All this while, the pilot virtually sits in the cockpit, hands folded, so to speak!

However, the biggest obstacle to pilotless flights on airliners, though feasible, lies in the human mind. Passengers would rather prefer to have a pilot in charge knowing that a human in the cockpit would like to live as much as they do - something known as ‘shared fate”

You mentioned about an anonymous blogger stating that pilotless flight may be a reality as early as 2030. I cannot say for certain if it would materialize for a bet was placed as early as 2002 by two parties that pilotless airliners would fly routinely by 2030.(see Long Bets)

When would there be pilotless airliners? I can only give a rough estimate that it may be a reality only between 50 to 100 years from now.

Yes, they would still require human pilots till then. It would be too far to think of dropping the pilot profession if your intention is to be one.

PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my Twitter at @CaptKHLim

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Comments (3)

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I really hate the fact that this might become reality, it is such a wonderful job and computers do make mistakes too. Hopefully it becomes reality in 200 years. Technology is changing fast, but they must keep their hands off the fact of 'no pilot airplanes', we fly and they have to trust us, not some stupid computers.
Mads Olsen , 22 Aug, 2013
what if they did the same to all kind of jobs that requires those navigating stuff? God, they'll be jobless. These possibilities are totally freaking me out.
athirah , 23 Aug, 2013
I am a teenager and I want to be na airline pilot, but when I see this, e feel that I don´t want to leave any moresmilies/cry.gif
jonh , 06 Dec, 2013

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