Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Drone technology and artificial intelligence is bringing about some startling future projections for air traffic flow.
The Air Force seeks a new air traffic control system to make better use of drones and automated cockpit technology.
Fuel efficiency, lower cost of war, and quality aerial imaging are the main driver for Air Force research into automated cockpit replacement.
Drone technology & AI are pre-disposing some to believe that there will be a day when unmanned smart drones fly so well humans won’t be needed anymore for most flight operations.
The military is the first area to advance unmanned autonomous drone development. However, this technology is finding roots in commercial aviation.
The question is, will drones replace pilots? Here, take a look!
Table of contents
- Will Drones Replace Pilots?
- What Benefits will this Drone Technology Bring?
- Will Drones ever Replace Piloted Aircraft?
- Challenges Facing Drone Technology Development over Piloted Aircraft:
- Can an Unmanned Plane be Hacked?
- Ways in which an UAV can be Hacked
- What Kinds of Drones will Appear in the Future?
- Bottom Line:
Will Drones Replace Pilots?
Yes. Drones will replace pilots. Although we are yet to have independent, autonomous unmanned drones, drones will likely overtake air combat and commercial flight operations.Why will Drones Replace Pilots?
Fighters cost a lot of money, and the ROI has long ago vanished. Each year, there are fewer competitors due to the winner-take-all contract bidding system. Write down the manufacturer and year of each aircraft at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Our system incentives mergers, collaboration, and other unethical activities have resulted in fewer aircraft builders yearly.
- The Skyborg Program has laid the groundwork for air combat embedded to help fighter jet work together with unmanned pilot drone. Robotic wingmen will work by themselves or in packs but split off to perform individual missions.
- The Airpower Teaming System by the Australian Air Force, which announced a $115 million deal in March 2021 with Boeing, will enable the development of three other Loyal Wingman drones.
What Benefits will this Drone Technology Bring?
So, as this technology advances further, unmanned aerial vehicles will replace pilots and bring several advantages, including;
- Quality aerial imaging
- Few losses of lives
- Minor damage to property and industries
- Fewer targets for human adversaries, among others
Will Drones ever Replace Piloted Aircraft?
Yes. Drones will continue overtaking air traffic control presently held by pilots. These crewless vehicles can perform complex tasks such as providing high-definition aerial images, video tours of real estate developments, or locating lost individuals.
Helicopter systems designed with drones for typical commercial applications will inevitably require that pilotless flights be done under strict governmental rules.
It is a highly technological accomplishment to project force over a distance without endangering human life. If some experts are right, it might be so revolutionary that it would end more than a century of military aerial superiority.
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and Twitter, believes drones could mean the end of piloted aircraft.
Air Force Lt. General “Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, the future will be,” Musk told John Thompson during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in 2021.
Several unmanned drones, such as the MQ-9B military drone, are labeled “autonomous,” which is inaccurate. A drone pilot operates the drone from a distance.
These drones resemble radio-controlled aircraft, but this might change shortly. Several specialists are working on making these drones autonomous.
Challenges Facing Drone Technology Development over Piloted Aircraft:
Autonomous vehicle systems can easily be overwhelmed or confused when a human could respond without hesitation unless “trained” to expect relatively uncommon eventualities.
Nonetheless, the intricacy and excitement of actual combat dwarf any urban driving experience. Combatants must respond quickly or risk being outmaneuvered or destroyed in battlefield circumstances that can change on a dime.
Enemies also actively seek ways to exploit any perceived or otherwise exploitable vulnerabilities.
Why we Need Drones over Piloted Aircrafts?
With some of the most sophisticated models costing a small fortune per unit, human-crewed jets are expensive and can have only limited numbers of aircraft.
- The whole F-35 program, for example, cost $400 billion according to some estimates.
Drones cost less, are more significant and faster-flying than manned craft, and could hit a target from any angle — with humans unable to do that.
We need drones over piloted flyable planes because air cover made effective by drones would be hidden while providing real firepower plus reconnaissance all at the same time.
And, as time goes on, their cost will continue to fall.
- The Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, which debut in 2021 will serve as a “Loyal Wingman” and a cheaper substitute for F-35 AND F-22.
For a fraction of an entire squadron of the latest stealth-capable fighters, such relatively cheap drones must be deployed. They can operate on existing runways and airfields.
Additionally, drones will have a higher ROI than piloted aircraft. Piloted aircraft would be dangerous, making them prone to mechanical breakdown or enemy action.
For that reason, piloting the unmanned craft is much safer than human-crewed aircraft because they lack worries about pilot errors and cockpit distractions.
Avoiding these will save on maintenance costs and increase their service life span.
Despite the sizable reduction in personnel, several small fleets of drones could carry out the frontline ground attack without putting undue strain on forces either logistically or technically.
Most drones could attack continuously without having to land or refuel between missions.
The adversary also denies that they have the aircraft with enough range to carry out such a mission. Else, have the pilots who know how to operate them effectively over hostile areas while avoiding detection by enemy radars and forces.
In the near future, a more advanced internet-of-things network, and more advanced satellite optical and digital communications will be deployed.
This aims at providing real-time imagery that can assist unmanned aircraft decisions to make maneuvers with more ease.
Can an Unmanned Plane be Hacked?
Yes. An RAP can be potentially hacked. A hacker might take control of a drone and command it to crash or shoot down an adversary craft.
In other words, this is one of the necessary risks associated with new technology but not something that should give anyone pause.
Ways in which an UAV can be Hacked
- Feeding the UAV false GPS coordinates is one example of GPS spoofing. An uncrewed airplane may be deliberately misdirected by an adversary who is also airborne (or onboard a ship). Consequently, he may divert it from its intended route without detection or counteract the payload delivery. A skilled hacker could disable the autopilot, leaving them until help arrives.
- Hackers may take control of an uncrewed aircraft’s command and control systems and hijack the craft, holding it for ransom or force.
- The Skyjack experiment proved that a hacker might hack other drones. As demonstrated, a computer hacker can do things such as remotely controlling the drone’s flights and even disabling it.
- Hackers may send a downlink threat feed to other gunships, fighter jets, and even drones that can be transmitting data at one time or another.
What Kinds of Drones will Appear in the Future?
Future drone technology is presently being revolutionized as drone technology improves regularly. The majority of current drone technology is in generations 6 & 7 according to airdronecraze.
The next few years are going to be quite exciting regarding drone technology. Industries like agriculture, space exploration, utilities, and infrastructure will greatly benefit from the advancements in drone technology.
These applications require constant access through remote controlling vehicles that operate independently for long periods or short distances.
Futurists may see a rise in multiple kinds of drones being used simultaneously during certain commercial tasks in different areas within an area.
Alternatively, in building such as aerial mapping, surveilling, inspecting, and delivering packages; security systems provide and perform other tasks such as nest monitoring.
The civilian sector is behind in commercial innovation, and military applications regarding flying machines will dominate the patents for decades.
However, limited examples described this new way of customizing commercial drones to perform specific functions whenever required.
The next generation of drones will provide enhanced flight trajectories, faster speeds, and greater payloads.
The future envisions are offering self-healing capabilities, making them tougher to damage from accidents or extreme weather conditions.
Ultimately independent unmanned flying systems will increase the likelihood of flight safety and intelligence. Habitat robotics that can cope with a full spectrum of environmental changes is possible in the design or engineering phase, which is currently underway.
Are Fighter Jets being Replaced by Drones?
Fighter jets like the F-35 are being replaced by manned-unmanned teamed interoperability, led by testing and experimentation in synthetic training. Eventually, unmanned military drones will fully replace fighter jets.
Will UAVs Replace Manned Aircraft?
UAVs will eventually replace human-crewed aircraft, but not in the immediate future. Most of these military UAVs are not capable of replacing aircraft like fighter jets or bombing helicopters for primary reconnaissance purposes.
Still, they will be used on a minimal scale during war operations due to heavy dependencies on other fixed assets and support services overhead.
Are Fighter Pilots Obsolete?
At this moment, and for many decades to come, it is unlikely for fighter pilots to be obsolete.
The current F-35 designs are expected to serve until 2070. Drones are currently more expensive than human-crewed aircraft, regardless of their level of capability. That may or may not shift in the future.
Although we cannot reach full-scale unmanned drone usage, these devices will eventually replace pilots. And it is likely that during the process, different models will be developed in which each has a specific role to play.
However, teaming human-crewed aircraft and unmanned drones in tandem will be encouraged. Why? It offers a greater specific situational awareness than simply piloting your plane while simultaneously employing an autonomous drone.