August 07, 2014
Airline Pilots To Be Replaced Before Car Drivers

Aircraft piloting is easier to automate than car driving because the operational environment is much simpler Other aircraft can be spotted with radar. The aircraft never get as close as cars do. No pedestrians and kids on bicycles are bouncing around and popping out of clouds. Automatic pilot systems came to aircraft decades before autonomous vehicles hit the highways. Some say the end is in sight for pilots.

I expect the biggest benefit for smaller communities since the cost of a pilot per passenger is a larger percentage of total cost for a 5 or 10 seater airplane than for a jumbo jet. Automated aircraft could lower the financial hurdle for setting up passenger aircraft to smaller and more rural towns. Automated small passenger aircraft could even provide on-demand taxi-like service.

Former Marine Corps pilot Steve Ganyard thinks the F-35 will be the last manned US fighter aircraft. Fighter pilots are becoming sensor managers.

“The modern fighter pilot is becoming more of a sensor manager or aerospace technician, and many of the tasks may not even require a pilot,” then-Lt. Col. Pete Zuppas wrote in a 2007 article that appeared on the Air Force’s website.

If you are 20 years old and thinking about becoming a pilot you ought to consider other options. Do not develop a skill at high risk for automation.

Hey, do you work in an industry where you see some job as likely to get partially or entirely automated out of existence? What's the job? When do you expect it to get done by robots and computers?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 August 07 12:51 PM 

bob sykes said at August 7, 2014 3:52 PM:

On the other hand, after one good knock down drag out with the Russkies, everyone will be flying Spads.

Ronald Brak said at August 8, 2014 7:59 AM:

Another improvement that might result in a boom in small scale flying is electric aircraft. Small aircraft are extremely expensive to run for several reasons. They burn a lot of fuel per hour and the maintenance costs are huge. Engines require an inspection after 100 hours of flight and need to be replaced after after 1,500-2,000 hours. This is not cheap. And then there's the cost of maintaining a pilot's licence which also requires a considerable investment of time and money. So while some farmers in Australia maintain light aircraft, as safety requirements have become stricter and the average age of farmers higher, many have given up. But an electric engine could last for the life of the plane and need very little in the way of inspection or maintenance and have much lower fuel costs. And while electric planes don't have great endurance, being able to get rid of the pilot will significantly increase their range or passenger/cargo capacity.

Oluseyi said at August 12, 2014 1:10 PM:

@Ronald Brak:

Unfortunately, electric aircraft means batteries (for now), and batteries are HEAVY. I suspect that's the main constraint holding them back.

Ronald Brak said at August 12, 2014 7:24 PM:

Oluseyi, the batteries definitely limit the endurance of electric planes. That's why Airbus's E-Fan is being positioned as a trainer as it could make many low cost short flights. But get rid of the pilot and that will considerably extend the range. Unpiloted electric planes could be used for crop dusting (something that is almost non-existent now in Australia due to the danger to pilots), delivery of supplies to remote areas, keeping track of livestock, search and rescue, and so on. They can be used for passenger service on short flights, but range will need to be improved to do more than short hops. But there are a lot of short hops in the world and electric flight could be useful for tourism in Australia.

Here's an article on the E-Fan in case you're interested:

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