How AI & IoT will save the Aviation Industry

Patrick Buckley    4 December, 2020

As we approach Christmas 2020, the success of various COVID-19 vaccines across the world is beginning to fill us all with a new-found sense of optimism, that, in the near future, we may return to the skies on our way to somewhere warm and tropical.

In this spirit of optimism, in today’s post we explore how artificial intelligence (AI) is continuing to change the way in which airlines operate around the world. From aircraft maintenance to helping optimise airline revenue, AI is becoming an increasingly important ‘secret weapon’ for airline success in an extremely competitive and notoriously unprofitable industry. 

The State of the Aviation Industry

During 2019, in a pre-pandemic world, the airline industry generated a whopping $2.7$ trillion (USD) in revennue, this equates to 3.6% of the worlds GDP (gross domestic product). The negative economic impact of COVID-19 on the industry has been severe, grounding fleets around the world. 

This new economic pressure placed on airlines will undoubtedly become a driving force of change within the industry. Airlines will look to restructure, cut costs and become more efficient in order to regain profitability and satisfy shareholders as soon as possible. This pressure will undoubtedly expedite processes of technological innovation within the industry as more airlines adopt AI and IoT technologies to become more efficient . 

Revenue Management 

Understanding demand patterns in different markets is one the main challenges confronting airlines. Successful airlines plan new routes around a profound understanding of market potential, how many people actually want to fly the route, the popularity of different travel classes and the likely seasonal demand fluctuations.

In achieving this, AI offers important insights. Aviation Rank , a Predict-Hq solution, uses algorithms to link flight data with historical demand patterns and frequent customer searches to offer airlines a concrete insight into new, potentially lucrative market opportunities.

Optimising Fuel Usage

Aside from the obvious positive social consequence of reducing aircraft fuel consumption, fuel is also an extremely expensive commodity for airlines. in 2019, fuel accounted for 29% of Airline operation costs.

Sky Breath an AI driven solution by Open Skies, aims to reduce airline emissions by 5% without any aircraft modification. How? Through the use of Big Data algorithms that combine environmental factors such as weather conditions and load factor with historical flight data and aircraft characteristics to produce an accurate prediction of fuel requirements for each individual flight .

Once the airline knows how much they will need to spend on fuel, they are able to plan routes according to demand and cancel those which become economically inviable.

This solution has already been adopted by 44 airlines including major players such as Air France.

The key to efficient  Aircraft Maintenance

Aircraft maintenance is also an extremely important yet expensive burden on the balance sheets of airlines around the world. According to IATA airlines spend an estimated $69Bn on aircraft maintenance every year, or around 9%of total operational costs. The proposition of a more targeted maintenance programme without compromising on passenger safety would offer airlines a serious financial break.

 AI is helping airlines adopt a more proactive and preventative approach to aircraft maintenance. Instead of organising maintenance timetables on annual or biannual basis, airlines will soon be able to target specific aircraft failures. This is thanks to the use of IoT powered connected onboard sensors that monitor and predict potential failures, allowing airlines to gain real time and accurate insights as to state and maintenance requirements of each aircraft. 

American tech firm, Spark Cognition is leading the way in this technology, designing a bespoke solution for the airline industry that is set to change the way in which airlines arrange the maintenance schedule of their fleet.

Strategically planning fleet maintenance schedules around demand and capacity will allow airlines to maximise revenue. After all, a plane has to be flying to generate income!

Final Thoughts

The future of the commercial aviation industry is bright. Yes, COVID-19 has taken a severe financial toll on the industry, but people will undoubtedly return to skies in a post-pandemic world, and when they do, airlines will be more agile and efficient than before. For those airlines which make it through the pandemic, AI and IoT technology will continue to drive down those all important operational costs at a time when the industry needs cost saving strategies like never before!

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