American Airlines to Begin Flying Passenger Drones

Based on public domain image by U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson - USAF Photographic Archives. Available at

Unmanned Passenger Flights Scheduled to Begin in August!

After receiving permission from the FAA in May, American Airlines announced yesterday that they will begin flying unmanned passenger planes. During flight, the planes will be controlled by a sophisticated artificial intelligence, with a human operator on call in case of emergency. The FAA requires takeoff and landing to be controlled by a remote human operator.

“This change will save the company millions of dollars, while at the same time increasing security and safety,” claims Mary Burton, Assistant Director of Marketing for American Airlines. “An artificial intelligence cannot be threatened or intimidated, so this change will make it impossible to hijack an airplane. In addition, since the remote operator will be on the ground, pilots will no longer become airsick, which will improve safety during turbulent conditions. After all, the thought of riding in an airplane with a puking pilot is a bit unsettling, isn’t it?”

The airline considered automating food and drink service as well. However, they found that, while food and drink automation would not be technically difficult, the presence of a flight attendant helps keep passengers calm and reduces in-air violence.1 So passengers flying with American Airlines will be pleased to hear that there will still be flight attendants serving drinks and light snacks on these unmanned flights.

Shares of American Airlines Preferred rose 13% after this announcement was made.

Based on public domain image by U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson – USAF Photographic Archives. Available at

  1. Robert Stallings (“Stress, Violence, and Confinement,” Aeronautical Review 24 (2014): 12-37) details the stressful consequences of confining strangers in close proximity, and shows that the presence of an authority figure reduces anti-social behavior and injuries.

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