We have some more bad news for the thousands of recently laid-off airline pilots, or ones that could be laid off this fall, as the travel and tourism industry remains in a bust cycle, that is, some planes are becoming fully automated and may no longer require pilots.
The future of autonomous flight could be much closer than folks realize, mostly because startups like Xwing, is working with the FAA to certify a fleet of autonomous Cessna 208B Grand Caravan utility planes for short-haul delivery services, reported FOX 5 New York.
Xwing’s Autoflight System can easily convert an existing small plane into an autonomous aircraft that can taxi, take off, navigate a flight route, and safely land, all on its own.
The company said the future of the air freight industry is the integration of autonomous systems:
“We believe the path to full autonomy begins with the air cargo market, and involves remote operators supervising fleets of unmanned aircraft,” Xwing founder and CEO Marc Piette said.
Xwing has already flown the robo-cargo plane more than 40 hours in test flights this summer with hopes of FAA certification in the near term. Upon approval, the company plans to fly a fleet of planes on humanitarian trips, with flight distances up to 500 miles.
It might be until the mid-point of the decade before autonomous planes begin to chip away at human pilot jobs. We noted last week how thousands of airline pilots are set to learn how to fly drones amid the mass layoffs at carriers.
So two powerful trends, one that is automation, and another is the collapse of the travel and tourism industry, has already begun to shrink the total number of commercial pilots needed industrywide.