The aviation industry could soon embrace autonomous piloting -- if anyone wants to fly in a plane without the reassuring voice of a captain to calm them down at the first sign of turbulence. Pilotless planes might come to an airstrip near you as soon as 2025, according to an extensive new UBS report. The Swiss bank took a deep dive into the potentially paradigm-shifting technology and came away with some exciting stats, along with one discouraging caveat. The self-flying planes could save the aviation industry up to $35 billion annually and make flights safer and more efficient, but only 17 percent of the 8,000 people surveyed globally would be willing to fly in one. Half of the respondents said that they wouldn't buy a pilotless flight ticket even if it was cheaper than the alternative -- a very real possibility, according to the report, which found that ticket prices could be reduced by 11 percent by replacing human pilots.
Boeing's flying car prototype, dubbed PAV, has successfully completed its first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle in Virginia. Boeing NeXt, which leads the company's urban air mobility efforts designed and developed the electric car craft to fly passengers above congested city streets. Powered by electricity, the prototype completed a controlled takeoff, hover and landing during the flight, which can carry people up to 50 miles (80km). The company, which produces both military and commercial jets, will continue testing to advance the safety of on-demand autonomous air transportation. Boeing's flying car prototype has successfully completed its first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle in Virginia.
Skyryse, an autonomous helicopter startup, unveiled the technology stack that it says will enable future fleets of air taxis to fly themselves over cities. It also released footage from a demonstration flight of one of its autonomous helicopters from earlier this year. The Hawthorne, California-based company is one of many with dreams of flocks of air taxis whizzing above cities in the near future. But rather than expend a lot of energy trying to build an electric-powered vehicle from the ground up, Skyryse is using regular helicopters as a platform to demonstrate its autonomous technology. Skyryse released a video depicting a modified Robinson R-44, a Federal Aviation Administration-approved helicopter, flying itself with two pilots inside as backup.
Flying taxi start-ups Joby Aviation and Kitty Hawk are being bankrolled by the US military. The rival companies, which are currently leading the race to build the first self-flying taxis to take to the skies, received $2 million (£1.5 million) in funding from the military last year. The funds, which were not disclosed at the time, were provided by the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a Pentagon-backed organisation founded to help the US military make faster use of emerging technologies. But despite the involvement of the armed forces, there will be'no weapons' added to the autonomous flying vehicles, it has been confirmed. Joby Aviation received $970,000 (£730,890) in funding from the DIUx in January last year, while Kitty Hawk was bankrolled $1 million (£753,495) a few months later, government contracting sites uncovered by The Guardian reveal.