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FedEx and UPS Will Soon Be Flying Pilotless Planes. How Safe Are They?

Pilotless planes will soon be carrying your packages to remote locations.

Natilus, which designs autonomous aircraft, just inked a $134 million deal with Ameriflight, a freight airline company that provides planes for FedEx, UPS, and DHL. The company will deliver 20 Natilus Kona feeder planes as part of its plan to create the “air cargo network of the future.”

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The Natilus planes have a carbon fiber, blended-wing-body that, according to the company, “offers a 60% reduction in the cost of operations and cuts carbon emissions by half,” said Aleksey Matyushev, Co-Founder and CEO of Natilus.

The plane’s small size also allows them to access more remote areas where larger aircraft don’t have the runway capacity to land.

“Autonomous technologies seek to utilize labor more efficiently by allowing a single pilot to control multiple aircraft, helping address the dire pilot shortage,” explained Matyushev.

Aside from being better for the planet, autonomous planes also offer a solution to the pilot shortage that has plagued airlines this past year, stressing the air traffic system and leaving passengers grounded and enraged.

Related: Your FedEx Packages Might Soon Be Moved Via Automatic Cargo Planes

How safe are pilotless planes?

The idea of autonomous planes traversing the airways can seem dangerous. Still, several organizations, including government agencies, academic institutions, and aerospace companies, have been actively researching and developing autonomous flight technology to ensure its safety.

Some studies have shown that autonomous flights reduce human error and improve situational awareness. Other studies have investigated the potential risks associated with autonomous flight, such as software failures and cybersecurity threats.

The technology is still in its nascency, but the latest announcement by Natilus and Ameriflight proves that pilotless planes are here to stay.

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