A report has been released by Cranfield University and Inmarsat to highlight the critical role digital connectivity will play in accelerating aviation’s long-term recovery from the challenges of the pandemic. Entitled ‘Why the future of aviation starts with connectivity’the study aims to provide insight and direction to key aviation stakeholders and governments as they reconsider their priorities for the future of the industry.
‘) } // –>
According to Cranfield and Inmarsat, key considerations will include a “monumental shift” in passenger behavior and expectations post-pandemic, as well as increased consumer awareness of their impact on the climate. Fear not: the report highlights huge opportunities that can be harnessed from these transformative changes for the aviation industry.
As part of their research, experts at Cranfield University have developed a digital connectivity timeline, which shows when 21 of the industry’s most critical technological innovations should be adopted. It focuses on three distinct timeframes: five years (technologies in advanced stages of development and, in some cases, being piloted by organizations prior to market adoption); between five and ten years (technologies under development with potential to be tested in certain sectors); and beyond the next decade (concepts under study for the development of product or service offerings).
These technologies could enable a range of innovative concepts to enter aircraft and airspace, helping to define the future of aviation while driving significant changes in passenger experience and sustainability efforts. Among the concepts explored are:
• How “connected travel” will improve a passenger’s experience with more efficient and personalized wayfinding at airports, smarter and more responsive baggage tracking, real-time updates on flight disruptions and connectivity in seamless high-speed flight.
• In flight, passengers and crew now expect the same levels of personal digital connectivity that they enjoy in their daily lives. In-flight digital entertainment (IFE) services, for example, which were once only provided by premium long-haul carriers, now need to be considered by low-cost carriers. Providing seamless connectivity to passengers’ tablets and smartphones (BYOD) is seen as a way to avoid costly and cumbersome aircraft upgrades and potentially introduce new revenue streams for IFE services through subscriptions or third-party advertisements for low-cost carriers.
• How the “Aware Aircraft” uses sensing and communication technologies to create an integrated aircraft health, maintenance and performance management system that is capable of a fully aware state, with the capability to take or suggest appropriate actions. For example, it can accurately predict the status of aircraft components and automatically reconfigure them to optimize their life cycle. Additionally, it can detect changes in the external environment, such as the weather or a cloud of volcanic ash. With the reduced need for scheduled maintenance, as well as anticipating the potential for component failure, maintenance costs would be reduced by approximately 30%.
• How trajectory-based operations are a crucial step towards future air traffic management, enabling more efficient sequencing of traffic and the routine deployment of fuel-efficient so-called “green descents” to terminal areas of the airport.
• How artificial intelligence (AI) and digital trust technologies have enormous potential for application across all sectors of aviation. AI can provide intelligent advice on aircraft management issues and make informed decisions under pressure – when it’s necessary to divert, for example – through camera-based traffic detection or by assisting the crew to anticipate and prevent critical situations. Machine learning (ML) can improve the accuracy of any application that involves optimization, from sensor calibration to fuel tank checks to icing detection.
The report also examines how the complexity and interoperability of future ecosystems may pose significant challenges for technology providers, regulators and airlines.
Philippe Carette, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Our new relationship with Cranfield University examined how the role of digital connectivity, in all its forms, can enable and accelerate meeting the rapidly changing needs of travellers. airlines and the aviation sector itself. It has identified specific challenges and opportunities which, if addressed, will have a direct beneficial effect on the resilience of the sector, its contribution to reducing climate change and on new customer service offerings that will strengthen the will passengers to travel in the post-pandemic world. .
“Harnessing the technological innovations explored in this report will be nothing short of game-changing for our industry, and at Inmarsat, we look forward to playing our part in bringing them to life through our global connectivity and world-leading Orchestra network of networks. . ”
Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University added: “Although this is a time of great challenge for the aviation industry, reports like this show the way that technology can set us on a path to a brighter and more sustainable future. “Digital aviation” and the foundation of connectivity must stop being a concept of tomorrow and become the reality of today. This report presents the many possibilities technologies and what can be achieved in the short to medium term. What is needed now is that we redouble our efforts to make this a reality.
The full report, executive summary and digital connectivity timeline are available here.