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In China, the era of automation we’ve all been promised by science fiction films is already underway. Not only is the country investing heavily in autonomous vehicles like cars — it’s also turning its eyes to the skies.

In a recent survey, UBS found that the airline industry could save up to $35 billion by deploying pilotless planes. The technology may be particularly useful for the shipping industry, as packages are immune to risk-averseness.

“Unlike passengers, cargo is not concerned with the status of its pilots [human or autonomous],” notes UBS. “For this reason, pilotless cargo aircraft may happen more swiftly than for passengers. In addition, we believe that the 24-hour nature of much of cargo flights [often taking off or landing in the late and early hours] may be well-suited to artificial pilots — with the problems of sleeping hours less of an issue.” Read more...

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