Are Automated Flights the Future of Travel?

If you think automated cars are scary, wait until you hear about automated flights. They’re closer than you might think.

As you might expect, there are pros and cons to these technological advancements. But are automated flights the future of travel?

Today, we’re looking at the future of flight and what you can expect.

Let’s take off!

What Are Automated Flights?

As their name indicates, automated flights are crewless flights. These flights utilize sophisticated computer systems and artificial intelligence to handle various aspects of aviation.

These complex systems allow them to operate without humans. Currently, automated flights are most commonly associated with drones and smaller aircraft.

Some in the airline industry are looking forward to their use with cargo and passenger flights. However, as you might expect, not everyone is comfortable with this idea. It’s a highly debated topic in the aviation community that’s likely not going away anytime soon.

Airbus is Testing Automated Flight

If you think this technology is decades away, you’d be wrong. A European aviation company, Airbus, has already begun testing its abilities.

Currently, they’re looking at how technology can assist pilots with tedious tasks, but they have plans for automated taxiing, takeoffs, and landings.

However, many are skeptical about the technology. They’d rather see the technology support pilots rather than replace them. Ultimately, the biggest concern is the safety and security of the aircraft. 

An airplane flying in the sky with palm trees around it.

Will Planes Ever Be Fully Automated?

The odds of planes being fully automated aren’t outstanding, at least not anytime soon. Elon Musk’s company, Tesla, is struggling to get approvals on the full self-driving capabilities of its vehicles, and they’ve got four wheels on the ground.

The FAA and other regulatory agencies would likely need to see years, if not decades, of data before approving fully automated planes.

However, technology evolves extremely fast. Look back at cell phones and vehicles a decade or two ago. The improvements in technology are nothing short of spectacular. As a result, we could see automated flights sooner than you think.

Benefits of Automated Flights

There are several reasons why automated flights are worth considering. Let’s look at the benefits of automated flights.

Improved Safety

One of the most apparent benefits of automated flights is a significant safety improvement. High-tech systems don’t blink, get tired, or get distracted.

These are some of the most common causes of aviation accidents. They use advanced sensors and algorithms to constantly monitor the plane’s status and make the necessary adjustments.

In addition, these computers can detect turbulence, weather disturbances, and mechanical failures that aren’t nearly as possible by humans. You can never be too safe in situations, especially when human life is at risk.

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A row of airplane passengers with monitors on the back of the seats.

Increased Efficiency

Another benefit of automated flights is that these systems can optimize flight routes, adjust speeds, and make real-time decisions. They’ll factor in all of the data received from sensors to operate as efficiently as possible.

Eliminating unnecessary deviations, reducing fuel consumption, and streamlining flight paths can lead to substantial fuel savings.

Additionally, the improved efficiency means shorter travel times for passengers. Who wouldn’t enjoy more consistency with travel times and getting to their destination faster? In today’s fast-paced world, you’re likely not going to hear any complaints.

Cost Savings

Automated systems can optimize operations, including for flights. This reduces human labor and the resources required. One of the most significant cost-saving advantages is the potential for reduced crew expenses.

Automated flights can operate with a smaller or more efficiently utilized crew, leading to lower labor costs for airlines. 

Theoretically, reduced expenses allow them to pass on some of these savings to passengers through lower ticket prices. Again, paying less and arriving on time will win over customers looking to travel by plane.

Reduced Workload for Pilot

Pilots have a lot on their plates when they climb into the cockpit. Luckily, automated flights can help reduce the number of tasks humans need to accomplish.

Maintaining a stable cruising altitude, managing engine performance, and executing precise landings will likely be much easier with automated assistance.

As a result, pilots can focus more on critical decision-making and unexpected situations. Being able to avoid repetitive and challenging duties can help prevent fatigue. This way, when pilots need to make crucial decisions, they can think clearly and make quality decisions.

A pilot and copilot in the cockpit of an airplane in the clouds.

Disadvantages of Automated Flights

However, automated flights also come with disadvantages to consider. Let’s look at the darker side of using these technologies on planes.

It’s Not Perfect

You only hear people brag about technology when it works. Unfortunately, we’ve all experienced those moments when our cell phones or computers struggled to operate correctly. As frustrating as this may have been, imagine being 30,000 feet above the ground and the computer was an airplane.

Glitches and malfunctions are typical when using computers and other high-tech devices. A human will likely have to step in and take control in these situations, which would defeat the purpose of the entire system.

Privacy and Security

All too often, we turn on the television and hear about the latest hack and data breach. Typically, these are financial records and other personal information. While it sounds like the basis for a good movie, imagine if hackers could take over a flight from anywhere in the world.

These seedy individuals could lock the pilot out and control the plane remotely. Airlines must develop and implement safeguards to protect these automated systems.

In addition, they would have to flawlessly pass tests before getting approval from regulatory agencies and, ultimately, passengers.

A computer hacker at his desk with lots of monitors working on different things.

Job Losses

An obvious disadvantage of automation in aviation is job loss. With computers taking over, airlines would likely downsize drastically the number of crew. This would include the pilot, co-pilot, and cabin crew that serve passengers. 

Working in the airline industry can be a lucrative career that takes a tremendous amount of training. With automated systems taking over, these individuals would likely have to expand into other sectors that may pay less.

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Will Your Next Flight Be Automated?

Everybody wants air travel to be as smooth and painless as possible. But, at what cost? Automated flights may be the next big thing in travel, but they’re many years away.

Unless you don’t plan on flying for the next decade or so, don’t count on an automated flight the next time you board a plane. The technology has a lot of hoops to jump through before it’ll receive the green light.

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