One-pilot planes are a possibility as aviation embraces A.I., Emirates president says

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Tim Clark, Emirates president, says we “might” see one-pilot aircraft in the future.
Tobias Schwarz | Afp | Getty Images

As the aviation sector starts to embrace artificial intelligence, planes flying with just one pilot are a possibility, according to Emirates President Tim Clark.

“You might see a one-pilot aircraft,” Clark told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble Tuesday, but said it will likely take some time to come to fruition — and might not necessarily be what passengers want. 

“[Passengers] like to think there are two pilots up there,” he added. 

As the scale and power of artificial intelligence rapidly increase, it is important that the aviation sector takes a step back and assesses the difference it could make, Clark said, adding: “Harness it, use it. Don’t fear it.”

“A lot of people are concerned about what AI should and shouldn’t be doing … but if you’re in business and you’ve got something as powerful as this coming along and you’re very processes driven, manpower intensive, you’ve got to take time to look at what this could do to improve what you do,” he said.

On the subject of completely pilotless planes, Clark said it was possible but a long way off, adding that he didn’t think this would happen during his lifetime. 

“Could the aircraft be flown on a fully automated basis? Yes it could, technology is right up there now, [but] there’ll always be somebody on the flight deck in my view,” Clark added.

The autonomous aircraft market is currently in its infancy, although a few start-ups are focused on developing pilotless planes for the future.

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