How would you describe the public’s current views on autonomous flight?
There is actually a very low level of opposition, but with certain conditions attached. That means people initially want a human safety operator on board, for example – like how elevators used to function. When the time comes for flying without an operator, there should be a way of regaining control and communicating with the ground.
What are the most common misconceptions?
That older people are more opposed to this kind of technology. In fact, many of them recognise the benefits it can bring in increasing mobility. Another one is that autonomy may be less safe, although most people understand that we have reached the point at which machines can outperform humans and improve safety of flight. Autonomy is the key to scaling urban air mobility.
How important is Airbus’ industry experience in shaping urban air mobility?
Extremely. We have a lot of credibility and trust because of our history. It’s down to companies such as Airbus to not only develop technology but also drive regulatory standards. If we wait, others with less experience will take the lead and that could be risky for the industry. Too much failure could be detrimental to public acceptance. We need to show leadership to help the industry realise the full potential of autonomous technology.