Taking Part in The Conversation: Drone Software as a Pilot?


“Would you get on a plane that didn’t have a human pilot in the cockpit?” asks Jeremy Straub, an assistant professor of computer science at North Dakota State University, in his most recent article published on The Conversation. It might seem scary to put so much trust in artificial intelligence, but the truth is that there are many benefits to having a non-human in control. Here are a few of the advantages that Straub points out:

Flying experience is the most important qualification for pilots. Commercial airline pilots must clock in 1,000 hours before even being allowed to co-pilot a plane like that. This is because experience forces pilots to think about how they would handle potential emergency situations. Drone software “could gain more flight time each day than a single human might accumulate in a year,” writes Straub. Obviously, this would be much more efficient than training a human.

Rapid response is another crucial ability for a great pilot. Think, for example, of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who used quick thinking to save lives when he landed a plane in the Hudson River. It took Captain Sully about a minute to even realize there was something wrong with the engines, and that a bird strike was to blame. A drone would be able to make this assessment in seconds, which in this case, might have created enough time for the plane to reach a runway instead of having to land in the water.

As Straub points out, the lack of public trust in piloting software would be a huge barrier to making it a reality. He suggests easing passengers into the idea by having drones as co-pilots before removing the human pilot entirely. Even still, many people may feel that drones lack a human element that is vital when so many lives are at stake.

Would you ride in a plane controlled by artificial intelligence? Tweet us your thoughts! And if you’re willing to hear the non-human pilot supporters out, check out Straub’s full article at https://theconversation.com/your-next-pilot-could-be-drone-software-92330