By Shane McGinley
Guillaume Faury says public acceptance may be the biggest step to making it a reality
Progress is being made towards the introduction of pilotless planes, but many steps are needed first in terms of technological advances and regulatory approvals, the CEO of European planemaker Airbus said, adding that the main obstacle may be public acceptance by passengers.
“No, it will come, step-by-step. Many steps are required before it becomes a reality,” Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus said in an interview in Paris ahead of the Dubai Airshow.
“The first one is technology, it’s not yet there but we are making progress. The second one is regulations. Once you have a technology, how do you certify, how do you make sure it is safe? And the third one will be public acceptance,” he said, adding that public perception will be the biggest challenge to manage.
“This one might take even more time. Are you ready to come into a plane today without pilots and go across the Atlantic? I’m not ready, and I was a pilot as well. So it’s not that I don’t trust pilots, I trust them more than the systems,” he added.
Faury, who was appointed CEO in April this year, said investments in new technology have seen many innovations and advances and pilotless planes will be one of the biggest disruptors.
“I think there is a shift from old technology to new technology as soon as possible and we’re introducing a lot of new technologies. It’s fair to say that there has been a lot of continuity in aviation, sometimes at a fast pace. But we’re seeing maybe more disruptions than we’ve had in the last 50 years going from fossil fuels to new energies in the next 20 years, connected planes, single pilot operations or flights without pilots. These are going to come, these are big disruptions.”
Airbus is seriously working on developing small electric-powered urban flying vehicles and these could ultimately be pilotless, so Faury sees these as being the prototypes and may be the first step in encouraging public acceptance.
“That’s maybe the next step. The first one is urban air mobility with pilots and the next one, the ultimate one, will be without pilots,” he said.
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