Analysis by investment bank UBS found that technology to enable remotely-controlled planes carrying people and cargo could appear by 2025.
Almost three-quarters of the economic benefit would be in airlines reducing the cost of employing pilots, the study found.
Safety would also be boosted as the potential for pilot error or illness would be removed, the report said.
In the US, passengers could benefit by air fares being cut by as much as 11 per cent, UBS said.
But a poll of 1,602 UK consumers found that more than half (53 per cent) said they are unlikely to travel on such an aircraft.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said in 2010 he would seek permission to use only one pilot per flight, claiming the second is unnecessary and only there to “make sure the first fella doesn’t fall asleep and knock over one of the computer controls”.
UBS predicted that the cargo industry could be the first to integrate pilotless planes in their operations. lights without a pilot.
Its report said: “Unlike passengers, cargo is not concerned with the status of its pilots (human or autonomous).
“For this reason, pilotless cargo aircraft may happen more swiftly than for passengers.”