This is your captain, AI, speaking - How Automation Is Reshaping Aviation
Boeing CEO sees the future in autonomous flight and Airbus is working on bringing it to commercial aircraft. But will the AI replace the pilots?
Modern passenger aircraft are highly automated machines. Apart from taxiing, take-off, and landing, the aircraft flies itself on autopilot. Aircraft manufacturers, however, plan to take the current automation to the next level with autonomous flight.
In this article, we delve into the latest advancements in autonomous flight technology and explore how it may impact the aviation industry.
The concept of autonomous flight is not new. Computers can already take off, fly, and safely land on their own. For example, AI has already successfully piloted an F-16 jet fighter. Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have made a humanoid robot named PIBOT that successfully piloted a small airplane in a simulator. Now, Korean researchers are planning to give PIBOT control over a real plane.
Established aviation companies and startups are working on bringing autonomous flight to commercial passenger aircraft. One such startup is Xwing, which is offering an autonomous flight system named Superpilot where a computer flies the airplane with remote human operators on the ground as a backup. The company focuses right now on cargo flights. The passenger operations are next on the roadmap, once the cargo flights are proven to be safe. Avionics provider Honeywell has in its offer avionics and sensors ready for autonomous flight for military and cargo operations.
The two big aircraft manufacturers - Boeing and Airbus - also see the future in autonomous flight. Boeing CEO admitted that in an interview in January 2023. But it is Airbus that leads the way in autonomous flight for commercial airliners.