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News Link • Transportation: Air Travel

Self-Flying Planes May Arrive Sooner Than You Think. Here's Why

•, by Dan Falk

With self-driving cars and trucks coming on fast, it's only natural to wonder if self-flying planes might be next. In fact, the aviation industry is pushing to make autonomous passenger aircraft a reality — and sooner than you might think.

Airbus is developing an autonomous air taxi dubbed Vahana. The tilt-wing, multi-propeller craft is designed to take off and land in tight spaces and able to fly about 50 miles before its batteries need recharging.

Vahana is intended for short urban hops — but what about long flights? How far away are we from a pilotless airliner?

Airbus's main rival, Boeing, has hinted that such a craft might be on the way. At the Paris Air Show last summer, Mike Sinnett, the company's vice-president of product development, said "the basic building blocks of the technology clearly are available." Key elements, including the artificial intelligence system "that makes decisions that pilots would make," will be tested next year.

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