New aircraft already rely on sophisticated computers, and government agencies are openly discussing robots and remote operators flying commercial aircraft. Commercial aviation flies millions of passengers around the world each year and already utilizes computer autopilots - and there is greater discussion to how much human interaction is needed to fly commercial aircraft.
"The industry is starting to come out and say we are willing to put our R&D money into that," said Parimal Kopardekar, manager of the autonomous operations project at the NASA Ames Research Center, in a statement to the New York Times.
Pilots currently only spend minutes actually piloting planes, with pilots of Boeing 777s saying they operate the aircraft for about seven minutes - and pilots of Airbus planes spending less than four minutes piloting their aircraft.
There will be increased discussion - along with more research and development - into robots that are able to directly fly a plane when needed, or systems that can be remotely accessed from ground pilots.