Photo: Flickr / Vox Efx
A piece in this week’s Economist looks at developments in pilotless planes and goes on to claim that autonomous civil aircraft could be flying before cars go driverless.It is potentially a huge new market. America’s aviation regulators have been asked by Congress to integrate unmanned aircraft into the air-traffic control system as early as 2015.
Some small drones are already used in commercial applications, such as aerial photography, but in most countries they are confined to flying within sight of their ground pilot, much like radio-controlled model aircraft.
Bigger aircraft would be capable of flying farther and doing a lot more things.
Pilotless aircraft could carry out many jobs at a lower cost than manned aircraft and helicopters — tasks such as traffic monitoring, border patrols, police surveillance and checking power lines.
They could also operate in conditions that are dangerous for pilots, including monitoring forest fires or nuclear-power accidents. And they could fly extended missions for search and rescue, environmental monitoring or even provide temporary airborne Wi-Fi and mobile-phone services.
Some analysts think the global civilian market for unmanned aircraft and services could be worth more than $50 billion by 2020.
What is unlikely, of course, is that passengers will accept being flown around in a pilotless plane any time soon. But this technology could allow for commercial jets to fly with just a single pilot. Read the whole piece.
Click here to subscribe to The Economist
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.