Empty Cockpit on the Drawing Board

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is studying the possibility of pilotless airliners, and plans to test certain aspects of the idea in 2018. Today’s drones demonstrate the feasibility of the concept and feature at least some of the required technology. Modern flight computers already allow the current generation of aircraft to take off and land without pilot intervention. Mike Sinnett, Boeing vice president and a pilot, will try out artificial intelligence software designed to make piloting decisions on a test flight next year. But a major stumbling block is meeting safety standards and obtaining regulatory approval for such a radical departure from tradition. While Sinnett admitted to having “no idea how to do that,” airlines are on board. Such a move would help meet a projected demand for 1.5 million new pilots over the coming two decades.

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