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Pilotless planes could save airlines billions. But would anyone fly?

The aviation industry could save $35 billion a year by moving to pilotless planes, according to a new report from UBS. Just one problem: The same report warns that only 17% of travelers are willing to fly without a pilot.

UBS said that the technology required to operate remote-controlled planes could appear by 2025. Further advances beyond 2030 might result in automated business jets and helicopters, and finally commercial aircraft without pilots.

However, contrary to popular belief, airliners do not fly themselves, even when they’re on autopilot. Pilots are continually monitoring and adjusting aircraft navigation and systems, communicating with air traffic control and preparing for the next phase of the flight.

The UBS analysts said the transition to pilotless planes is likely to happen over many years. Cargo planes would likely be first to incorporate the new technology, with commercial flights being the last to go pilotless. The number of pilots needed for each flight could be reduced along the way.

Question: Would you take a flight that didn’t have a pilot on board? What if you could save money on your ticket, would that make it more appealing to you?

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