Pilotless planes will take off ‘within a decade’ as British companies team up to create new AI

Pilotless planes could be transporting passengers between Scottish islands within a decade after British aircraft manufacturer announces plans for ‘full automation’ by 2030

  • Isle of Wight-based Britten-Norman aims to create pilotless plane by 2030  
  • Will partner with Blue Bear to help create cutting-edge artificial intelligence  
  • The pilotless planes will need to be granted regulator approval before taking off 

Two British companies are teaming up to create cutting-edge artificial intelligence that will allow aeroplanes to be flown without a human pilot by 2030.

Isle of Wight-based Britten-Norman has announced it intends to have just one pilot in its planes by 2025, and no pilots at all by 2030.  

To achieve these lofty heights as the first pilotless commercial aircraft, it has teamed up with Blue Bear, a British autonomous flight specialist.

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Britten-Norman’s Islander plane will be the focal point of the project and specialises in short-haul flights, currently operating between Scottish islands

Isle of Wight-based Britten-Norman has announced it intends to have just one pilot in its planes by 2025, and no pilots at all by 2030. To achieve the lofty heights as the first pilotless commercial aircraft it has teamed up with Blue Bear, a British autonomous flight specialist

Isle of Wight-based Britten-Norman has announced it intends to have just one pilot in its planes by 2025, and no pilots at all by 2030. To achieve the lofty heights as the first pilotless commercial aircraft it has teamed up with Blue Bear, a British autonomous flight specialist

Britten-Norman’s Islander plane will be the focal point of the project and specialises in short-haul flights, currently operating between Scottish islands.

It carries just nine passengers and needs only a short runway to take-off and land, due to its diminutive size.

The Islander has a 50ft (15m) wingspan and weighs less than 3,300lbs (1,500kg).

Airbus unveils concept images of an eco-friendly fleet of the future 

Airbus has revealed a fleet of zero emissions planes which are primarily powered by hydrogen fuel and are carbon neutral. 

Airbus claims the three hydrogen-hybrid concepts will be the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft.

The planes are called the turbofan, turboprop and the blended-wing body and are earmarked to enter service by 2035, Airbus says. 

The hydrogen-fuelled aircraft could enter service by 2035. Pictured, a concept image of the bizarre looking blended-wing body

The hydrogen-fuelled aircraft could enter service by 2035. Pictured, a concept image of the bizarre looking blended-wing body

The company also has aspirations of being carbon neutral, echoing the sentiment of aeronautics giant Airbus, which last month announced a fleet of zero-emissions planes which is says will be operational by 2035. 

According to a statement from Britten-Norman: Regional air transport will have to incorporate zero carbon and autonomous technology to make operations affordable and scalable. 

‘Utilising these technologies could make air transport faster, greener and easier than road and rail journeys by the 2030s.’ 

Pilot assistive technology has long been utilised in the cockpit, with commercial flights using autopilot for the best part of half a century. 

The military also uses drones which are flown from the ground, but taking the step to fully automated flight is likely to meet resistance from governing bodies, passengers and pilots alike.   

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) told The Times that passengers will be put off the idea of an AI flight, because they want the comfort of knowing the pilot on-board is taking the same risks they are.  

Brian Strutton, general secretary of Balpa, says all technological developments are welcome in aviation. 

But he went on to say: ‘We do not believe that any automated system is as capable as an experienced professional pilot in extreme conditions as these aircraft might encounter.’ 

A 2018 survey found that almost two thirds (63 per cent) of passengers are unlikely to fly in a pilotless plane. 

Meanwhile, over half (52 per cent) would be reluctant to fly in a single-pilot aircraft. 

William Hynett, CEO of Britten-Norman, said: ‘We have become used to the ‘car of the future’ incorporating green and autonomous technology, the future of aviation will undergo a similar revolution.’

Pilotless planes will take off 'within a decade' as British companies team up to create new AI 1

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