Planes without pilots will be cheaper, but passengers won't get on

Share

"Perhaps surprisingly, half the respondents said they would not buy the pilotless ticket even if it was cheaper", said UBS Evidence Lab report.

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.

The survey says airlines could save $35 billion per year without pilots, but only 17 percent of 8,000 respondents said they would board an automated plane.

Delving into the survey's numbers, UBS stated that in terms of willingness to embark on a pilotless plane, younger participants between the age of 18 and 34 appeared more inclined, with 30 per cent willing to try out the experience.

Nationality also had an effect on how people voted.

A new report from Switzerland-based investment bank UBS has revealed that airlines could save more than $35bn per annum by introducing pilotless aircraft.

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

"We think it is likely we would initially see cargo the first subsector to adopt new related technologies, with the number of pilots falling from two to one and eventually from one to none", the report said.

A number of aviation companies and technology startups are already tackling autonomous flight, with plans to offer self-flying "robotaxis" by the middle of the next decade.

The report said the savings by airlines could come from reductions in pilot costs, lower insurance premiums and opportunities for additional cargo and commercial flights.

Autonomous systems already take on much of a pilot's workload, capable of taking off, landing and maintaining a steady speed, direction and altitude. "Computers can fail, and often do, and someone is still going to be needed to work that computer". UBS added that this could be beneficial for the industry, as "acceptance should grow with time".

Share