Pilotless Drones Might Be The Future Of Commercial Flying

Jet stream 31 BAE

Life could get a lot easier for commercial pilots.

That is, if BAE Systems, a UK-based defence contractor, successfully develops the first internationally accepted, and totally legit, commercial drone passenger jet.

“Although there is still work to be done it would seem that, on the basis of the success of this flight, a UAV could operate in different classes of airspace,” said Andrew Chapman, an Unmanned Air Vehicle expert for British National Air Traffic Control Services’ (NATS).

The Jetstream-31 flew across British airspace last month under the control of a ground-based pilot and NATS air traffic controllers as a part of a series of tests to determine the viability of drones as passenger carriers.

Pilots were still inside the cockpit during the flight, as a precaution, but reportedly did not control the aircraft for the whole duration of the flight.

It was part of BAE’s ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment) program which hopes to replace pilots in the cockpit with pilots on the ground. 

If properly vetted, and then integrated into commercial airlines, the change could bring some welcome relief to tired pilots. The airline industry has been under fire for years for overworking their pilot corps.

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