The technology is already here. The question is if consumers would be willing to fly in a pilotless plane.
The technology is already in drones. Not necessarily the remote-controlled ones that are available at your local BestBuy, but the supersize ones that are deployed to unsafe war zones by militaries all over the world. These are the size of a small airplane and can be controlled from hundreds of miles away.
The second argument for autonomous planes is that for the most part, planes are already autonomous. A lot of pilots rely on autopilot for at least 95% of the flight. The only time they are hands-on is during takeoff and landing.
An autonomous airline is safe. Yes, the plane is much safer in a robot’s hand then it is in human hands. No human errors. No stress. No distractions. And there’s no need to monitor the pilot’s mental and physical health.
The biggest problem is if the plane is hijacked. This is already a concern in some autonomous vehicles. The IoT system that controls the car’s Infotainment system can be hacked from outside, especially if you have your smartphone plugged in.
If there are on-flight problems, a pilot may be necessary. While the autopilot system will be programmed to handle any problem scenario that may occur, human intuition and a feel for the environment may be necessary to bring about a solution.
It’s already here
There are test versions out there. At the CES in January, Chinese company Ehang revealed the Ehang 184, a single-person aircraft with autopilot capabilities. The passenger needs to press the buttons for take-off and landing but everything else is handled by the plane. Aurora Flight Sciences Corp is working on the Centaur and Airbus is working on Vahana.
Autonomous planes are not only good mass transport options, they can be used to usher one or two passengers around high-traffic areas.
The technology for autonomous vehicles – and now airplanes – require complex algorithms. These algorithms have built-in technology designed to handle a variety of traffic scenarios, sudden pedestrian appearances and unexpected detours. What makes the algorithm even more complex is that it has an AI component built-in to enable self-learning. The goal is the longer the systems are in use, the smarter they will be. At some points, the system will eventually reach the point where the cars can be released into areas with dense traffic and drivers with little regard for traffic laws. Most autonomous cars are being tested in areas with an order to traffic. Like Singapore. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And Michigan.
The autonomous systems are powered using several high-end electronic components. This could either be a GPU or an FPGA. The majors are divided between the two. Intel (having taken over Altera FPGA) will design a platform based on FPGA. Meanwhile, Tesla, along with Nvidia, are relying on GPU for their ‘Drive Px2.’
Luxe Electronics is an electronic component distributor based in Amesbury, MA. We are always on the lookout for RFQs and any excess opportunities. We do a lot of business with both Altera and Xilinx FPGA. If you have a RFQ or any excess on hand, let us know. We sign confidentiality agreements with each OEM we work with.
Image from Wikipedia