So, I am considering a career being a pilot. However, the course is real expensive, and I do not want to invest so much money if in a couple of years robots will replace pilots.

So, anyone have any idea when robots will take over?

  • $\begingroup$ Robots will not replace pilots in the next couple of years, and possibly not ever for passenger flights. $\endgroup$ – CatchAsCatchCan Dec 18 '19 at 10:25
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    $\begingroup$ When they pry the stick out of my cold, dead hand, that's when! $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Dec 18 '19 at 13:29

Nobody knows for sure, but I can give you some facts which may help your decision and conclusions:


  1. Commercial* aviation is one of, if not the, most safety centred industry on the planet. Critical failures and excess risk are simply not tolerated - this means certification is long, expensive and exhaustive.

  2. Because of the above, it can take a long long time for new technology, no matter how small, to filter through into regular use. Changes tend to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

  3. Again, to add some context to the above, there is not a single commercial* airliner that is even close to being equipped for autonomous flight. None of them can automatically take off, autoland is extremely limited (Both by conditions and equipment) and they often have functions that simply can't be controlled by the computer yet.

*I'm starring commercial because I'm not talking about military technology or retrofitting random equipment. I'm talking fully developed, certified, approved and proven technology in the commercial aviation space. Flying a drone into a battle is a world apart from flying 500 paying passengers to their holiday.


At some point, the above will happen - there's little doubt. However:

  1. The average age of an airliner is somewhere around a decade. If the technology appeared, proven and tested tomorrow and everybody snapped it up, you're talking approximately ten years before the average (not all!) aircraft utilises it.

  2. The above point ignores that airlines have aircraft ordered for YEARS into the future, so you can immediately add a few years lead time onto that.


This bit is more opinion orientated and, I'll be clear, I'm not saying commercial aviation will never be automated but I'm not convinced that the outright desire to do so exists right now.

You're saving two crew members on what is already an extremely expensive endeavour, and it's not like they won't be replaced with something. Somebody, somewhere, will need to monitor and control the flight. On top of that, you've got all of the safety requirements that we spoke about above - I'm not sure they can all be met remotely and automatically.

Planes are extremely unique compared to other forms of transport - the distances, the speeds and complexity of flight are a world away from a train or a car which, ultimately, can just stop. Planes don't have a "failsafe" option - you either land properly somewhere or you crash.

I also don't think commercial aviation compares well to military drones. Again, they're worlds apart in requirements, risk tolerance and mission

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  • $\begingroup$ Would you please give examples of functions that can't be controlled by a computer, or handled remotely? $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Dec 18 '19 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @rclocher3 electronic failures. Imagine the whole electrical system dies. Then automation will never work $\endgroup$ – lpydawa Dec 19 '19 at 8:44

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