Artificial Intelligence: U.K. Plane Manufacturer Plans Pilotless Flight By 2030

October 9, 2020 | Artificial Intelligence, News

Britten-Norman, based in the Isle of Wight, plans to have a pilotless plane in the air by 2030.

Britten-Norman, the only commercial aircraft manufacturer in the U.K., manufactures the world-renowned Islander aircraft. The short take-off and landing plane is a reliable workhorse that serves multiple functions such as transportation of cargo or passengers, search and rescue, and medevac. It also specializes in short-haul flights and is in operation between the Scottish islands, with a capacity of nine passengers.

By 2025, Britten-Norman plans to have just one pilot in its planes, and none at all by 2030. For this, it has partnered with Blue Bear, a pioneer and leader in unmanned flight systems. (Britten-Norman)

Regional air transport the focus

High operating and maintenance costs force regional air operators to rely on government subsidies.

“Autonomous flight capabilities, alongside zero-carbon air vehicles, will be necessary to make future regional aerial mobility affordable and improve interoperability,” says Britten-Norman.

Accordingly, the two companies will commence their work together in October 2020 on the automation of a Britten-Norman Islander. As a first step, they aim to fly it with a single pilot with assistance from an autonomous co-pilot providing assistance. They are likely to achieve this milestone by the mid-2020s, significantly boosting efficiency and saving costs.

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. Blue Bear is the leading light when it comes to air autonomy technology, it is an absolute privilege to be partnering on this project.”

However, Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, told The Times that the aircraft could encounter extreme conditions and that an automated system could not match the skills of an experienced professional pilot in such situations.

Related Story:  Boeing Delivers AI-Enabled, Jet-Powered Drone to Australian Air Force

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