Sunday, February 11, 2018

Self Piloting Passenger Aircraft: The Future Of Civil Aviation?

Despite of the current regulatory hurdles, are self-piloting of autonomous passenger aircraft the future of civil aviation?

By: Ringo Bones 

Uber first announced its own concept of self piloting / autonomous passenger aircraft after making a situational advert on what happens if their self-driving car service got snarled by heavy traffic. According to Uber, solution is already at hand via its very own self piloting or autonomous passenger aircraft – and the possibility of it entering service is sooner than you think.  

The ride-sharing firm Uber and Urban Aviation are already partnering with Bell Helicopters and already have a flying prototype of their “pilotless air taxi” which a fleet could enter service as soon as 2020 current regulatory hurdles permitting. But the good news is NASA and the United States Federal Aviation Administration is already developing new air traffic control systems specifically designed to accommodate the upcoming fleets of autonomous air taxis once they enter service by 2020. 

Currently, a number of firms have already joined the bandwagon on pilotless air taxis and pilotless / autonomous passenger aircraft. A Mainland Chinese firm Ehang and Germany’s Volocopter already made a flyable prototype capable of carrying four passengers plus a pilot in case the autonomous computer fails. All of the firms who had released plans to offer a pilotless air taxi service say that the “pilot” only serve as a technician if the autonomous flying computer develops problems but most of the time, the “pilot” will be serving as a de-facto ambassador to the passengers to allay any fears or doubts that they have on their self-flying technology. 

Technically, all of the pilotless air taxis are battery powered, capable of carrying 4 to 5 passengers and has a range of between 60 to 100 miles which make them a very viable alternative to avoid being stuck in rush-hour traffic when commuting from one city center to another which has recently classivied this class of aircraft as “urban air vehicles”. The good news is that the batteries they use to power their aviation grade electric motors are the latest ones that are able to be fully charged between 5 to 15 minutes.   


  1. One of Uber's pilotless air taxi prototypes is based on the Curtiss-Wright X-19 experimental tiltrotor VTOL plane from the 1960s equipped with 21st Century avionics.

  2. Most of the designs - especially the Uber Pilotless Air Taxi reminds me of those 1960s era experimental vertical take-off and landing planes - often referred to as "pervertiplanes".