Airbus Envisions Autonomous Airliners

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Airbus has created a new innovation center in Shenzhen, China, near Hong Kong, where it will pursue research that would enable a single pilot to fly commercial aircraft, according to Bloomberg News. Airbus Chief Technology Officer Paul Eremenko told Bloomberg this week, “We’re pursuing single-pilot operation as a potential option, and a lot of the technologies needed to make that happen have also put us on the path towards unpiloted operation.” Eremenko said a projected pilot shortage drives the research. Airbus said in a news release the new innovation center will work to “accelerate R&D, application, and industrialization of in-flight experience, connectivity, new energy, and urban air mobility [and] cultivate an integrated hardware and software ecosystem.”

“I think the general aviation space in China is just opening up,” Eremenko told Bloomberg, in Hong Kong. “There’s an opportunity for China to sort of take a leap ahead, as it has been prone to do in other areas, and design the aerospace system, design the regulatory regime to be future looking, forward looking, to enable urban air mobility.” The new Innovation Centre is part of an “extended worldwide innovation ecosystem” which includes the Silicon Valley innovation centre, A^3, which is working on the Vahana flying taxi.

Comments (5)

If Airbus thinks that they will learn anything about autonomous operation, as a consequence of developing a single-pilot airliner, then they're even more ignorant than I've feared. Autonomy and a pilot count other than zero are mutually exclusive. Duh.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | November 24, 2017 7:28 AM    Report this comment

I will never set foot on an airliner unless both pilots have their own skin in the game.

Posted by: Jim Perkins | November 24, 2017 1:59 PM    Report this comment

Honestly, I have to agree that much of what happens on the flight deck can easily be handled just as well on the ground or in software. Having one pilot on board works great for GA so I don't see a huge problem with eliminating the redundancy.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 24, 2017 8:54 PM    Report this comment

Until something goes wrong!

Posted by: matthew wagner | November 26, 2017 3:18 PM    Report this comment

Single pilot is sure to be the first "big step" into this brave new world, and probably not that far away. In spite of this it could be a long, long road to full autonomy. Even after autonomous cars & trains become accepted there will still be a strong aversion to being flung into space with no overseer.

Posted by: John Wilson | November 28, 2017 12:42 AM    Report this comment

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