The notion that we might soon be able to travel by plane, with no pilot on board, might be hard to swallow. Yet according to the world's largest aerospace company, self-flying planes could become a reality in the near future.
Airlines have forecast a need for 1.5 million pilots over the next 20 years and in attempt to try and address a potential shortage of pilots, Boeing has announced plans to start testing pilotless plane technology next year, reports.
Planes can already take off, cruise and land using onboard computers. Speaking ahead of the Paris Air Show, Mike Sinnett, Boeing's vice president of product development, confirmed "the basic building blocks of the technology clearly are available".
Sinnett, who is a pilot himself, hopes to test the technology this summer and "fly on an airplane next year some artificial intelligence that makes decisions that pilots would make".
However, although the technology is there, meeting the safety standards of the airline industry could be more problematic.
"I have no idea how we're going to do that," Sinnett said. "But we're studying it right now and we're developing those algorithms." Sinnett added that if a plane can't land safely, "we can't go there".
There's also the crucial question of how willing passengers would be to board a plane without a pilot. "It appears that people are more comfortable with a pilot directly at the controls, and on the plane," aeronautics expert Stephen Rice, who , told the . "People are of the opinion that being in the vehicle while controlling it is easier than controlling it remotely. Most people have driven remote control cars or planes and find it difficult."