Aircraft and air travel will be safer without pilots, but underwriters have a lot to learn about automated flying technology, an aviation insurance report concluded.
The report, which was commissioned by the Society of Underwriting Professionals (SOCUP), concluded that, despite the safety advantages offered by pilotless flights, underwriters will need extensive operational and security details on the technology to provide airlines with the needed coverage.
Suzanne Bazire, a chartered insurance broker for general aviation and commercial pilot, authored the study, which looked at the history of piloted flights, auto-pilot and automated flight technology. She concluded that human pilots are an expensive resource responsible for 70% to 80% of aviation accidents. By eliminating the need for a human pilot, improvements will be seen in aircraft safety and, consequentially, underwriters’ loss ratios, Bazire said.
Bazire said that, while fully automated airlines may still be decades away, automated air-taxis may become available in a few years. This means that underwriters must quickly grasp key considerations, such as what cyber protection is in place for automated flights.
She also predicted that aviation premiums are likely to increase as underwriters unpick and assess the risks of automated flight technology.
“While programme engineers are still capable of making mistakes, possible crises can be considered, tested and double checked in advance,” Bazire said. “Whilst there will always be anomalies, advancements in AI will allow computers to learn and apply previous experience to new situations. There will be challenges in adoption by users, though the current generation of young adults has grown up with technology in their lives on a scale never seen before, and it is logical to see how they would embrace aircraft automation.”