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Pilotless planes could save airlines $35 billion, UBS says


A scenic view of aircraft flying overhead photographed on November 29, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Bruce Bennett | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A scenic view of aircraft flying overhead photographed on November 29, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In terms of material economic benefits, analysts from the bank stated that there could be a material profit opportunity of more than $35 billion per year for the aerospace and aviation industry.

To uncover these savings, UBS suggested that the sector would have to look at a number of elements, including how airlines could benefit from lower operating and training costs, reduced fuel costs and insurance premium costs. Overall, the Swiss bank said that there could be $26 billion in pilot cost savings for commercial airline firms alone.

“The opportunity, we believe, would be dependent on the timing of the roll-out of pilotless planes and we think it is likely we would initially see cargo the first subsector to adopt new related technologies, with the number of pilots falling from two to one and eventually from one to none,” the note said.

And this concept isn’t entirely unheard of either. Already, commercial jets have a number of functions that are carried out by computers, including autopilot and taking off with the use of on-board computers.

Meanwhile in June, Boeing stated that it was looking into the concept of pilotless technology, and last week announced that it was to set up an avionics group, in order to create aircraft controls and electronics, according to Reuters.

UBS added that it didn’t think investors were pricing in any advantages for commercial airlines at present, as these benefits “may be more than five years out.”

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