Underwriters urged to get to grips with automated air taxi market

While fully automated airlines may still be decades away, automated air taxis will be a reality in a matter of years, something that underwriters will need to prepare for now, to help get the sector off the ground.

This is the conclusion drawn by a report published today by the Society of Underwriting Professionals, which suggests that aircraft would be safer without pilots, but that underwriters will need extensive operational and security details on the technology required to fly this way if airlines are to get the insurance required to allow automated flights up in the air.

The author of the report Suzanne Bazire, a chartered insurance broker for general aviation and fully trained commercial pilot, has studied the history of piloted flights, auto-pilot and automated flight technology.

Bazire, who is an insurance broker for aircraft operations with less than 60 passengers per flight, predicts that while underwriters assess the risks of automated flight technology, premiums are likely to increase initially.

“Despite the intense training and constant assessments ensuring as high standards as possible, as people we are fallible and capable of inconsistencies and errors,” she said. “While programme engineers are still capable of making mistakes, possible crises can be considered, tested and double checked in advance. 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.

“As with all developments, adoption increases as the technology becomes more visible and with an expected safety record improvement, more sceptical users could be converted."

In addition to being increasingly expensive, human pilots, she added, are responsible for 70% to 80% of aircraft accidents, and that taking them out of the equation would improve aircraft safety and consequentially, underwriters’ loss ratios.

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