Would you fly in a plane with no human pilots?

Merlin_1 via Flickr

The automotive industry is on the cusp of a driverless revolution, with actual driverless vehicles being tested on the road.

Now the aviation industry is debating whether pilotless planes make sense.

While the notion of fully automated commercial planes no doubt has been previously kicked around, last month's Germanwings crash -- caused by a co-pilot struggling with mental health who steered a plane carrying 150 passengers straight into a French mountainside -- has caused aviation experts to seriously rethink ways to increase commercial flight security.

The New York Times reports that "government agencies are experimenting with replacing the co-pilot, perhaps even both pilots on cargo planes, with robots or remote operators."

(Related article: Flying cars: What could go wrong?)

Commercial flights today are almost flown exclusively on auto-pilot. The Times notes that in a recent survey of commercial pilots, "those operating Boeing 777s reported that they spent just seven minutes manually piloting their planes during the typical flight. Pilots operating Airbus planes spent half that time."

But they're still on the plane, and still able to take control. The idea of boarding a plane that's going to fly hundreds or thousands of miles without a human pilot even on the craft is going to be a tough sell for much of the population.

Even within the aviation industry, there's great skepticism. Here's Mary Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, being quoted by The Times:

“You need humans where you have humans. If you have a bunch of humans on an aircraft, you’re going to need a Captain Kirk on the plane. I don’t ever see commercial transportation going over to drones.”

We agree with Dr. Cummings. 

This story, "Would you fly in a plane with no human pilots?" was originally published by Fritterati.

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