Move over self-driving cars as self-flying planes could soon be a reality. Aerospace giant Boeing has announced that it will test some of its jetliners next year without pilots leading to flying its passenger aircraft autonomously some day.
While self-driving technology for cars is relatively new, autopilot on aeroplanes have existed for over a decade. However, autopilot mode is mostly used when the aircraft is in the skies that too monitored by the pilots. The crucial task of take-off and landing are still a pilot's core responsibility even though some onboard flight computers do posses the technology to take off and land on its own.
"The basic building blocks of the technology clearly are available... but I have no idea how we're going to do that. We're studying it right now and we're developing those algorithms," Mike Sinnett, Boeing's vice president of product development told Reuters days before the Paris Airshow.
Sinnett, who is a pilot himself, says the company is working on artificial intelligence (AI) that can make the same decisions pilots make during a flight.
It is likely that the maiden test routes will be devoid of congested areas and challenging landscapes like high mountains or large stretches of water. The biggest challenge will be to maintain altitude in accordance to air traffic parameters and conduct a safe and smooth landing.
"A self-flying plane would need to be able land safely as Captain Chesley Sullenberger did in the 'Miracle on the Hudson.' If it can't, then we can't go there," says Sinnett.
BAE Systems, the British defence company, has been testing robotic planes since last year and has successfully logged trials with its autonomous technology that has taken over the controls 15,000ft high in the sky.