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Airlines Could Replace Co-Pilots With “Genius” Robots

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Researchers say using the robot is like having a co-pilot with 600,000 hours of experience

Scientists have developed a robot with metal tubes and rods designed to do the work of the arms and legs of an airline pilot.

The robot has been created by US aviation and aeronautics research company, Aurora Flight Sciences, which specialises in the manufacture of advanced unmanned systems and aerospace vehicles.

Lack of skilled pilots

The company believes that commercial airlines and the military both struggle to recruit and train enough skilled pilots, and says AI could be the solution.

robot-copilotCompany CEO, John Langford, told the Daily Express that the robot “can do everything a human can do”.

He added: “It’s like having a co-pilot with 600,000 hours of experience – a genius co-pilot.”

The robot has been designed as part of a Darpa program to demonstrate automation that could reduce the crew required to fly existing aircraft.

Dan Patt, Darpa program manager, explained that the development is based on cockpit automation to enable operation of current aircraft with fewer crew, and not on a new aircraft designed for reduced-crew operation.

He added that pilots can use their time more productively. From a military perspective, it could “allow the human to think about the context of the mission and the information being collected versus managing the stick and throttle,” he explained.

Test flights are ongoing, with the latest conducted in October in Manassas, Virginia, USA. During the flight, the human pilot was able to talk with the robot co-pilot – which can also predict adverse weather conditions and deal with takeoffs/landings – through a tablet.

Some experts say the use of such AI could reduce the risk of human error during flights, while others have warned that it could be vulnerable to hacks.

This may all seem like a far-fetched use of AI, but with  the growing development of driverless cars, it is not hard to imagine other transportation will follow suit in the near future.

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