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Drone Alone: How Airliners May Lose Their Pilots

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UAV passenger planes?

Alisdair Macdonald / Rex Features

Would you fly in an airliner knowing there were no pilots in the cockpit? This is no mere hypothetical question. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration this month kicked off what could be the first step in a journey towards the full automation of the airliners we all travel on.

The FAA commissioned the Boeing subsidiary Insitu, based in Bingen, Washington, and the New Jersey Air National Guard to begin investigating ways for civil aircraft to share their airspace with remotely piloted uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs). In the UK, a research programme called Astraea 2, led by BAE Systems and Airbus owner EADS, is pressing ahead with similar aims.

The goal on both sides of the Atlantic is to allow UAVs to share civilian airspace, rather than clearing a section of airspace for every UAV flight, as happens now. While this segregation of the sky has prevented collisions, arranging clearance for every flight is time-consuming and curtails potential fly-at-a-moment's-notice applications for UAVs.

From New Scientist
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