As estimated by CISCO, there will be over 50 billion internet-connected devices by 2020 − more than 6x the world’s population! Every vertical and niche seems to be gearing towards the IoT technology these days, and recent IoT use cases prove aviation to be one of the industries that’s already largely influenced by the m2m communications.
In aviation, be it commercial or military, the IoT effects normally include travel time reduction, increased passenger safety and comfort and elimination of the human error when it comes to air crashes or accidents.
The IoT actually promises a totally new vision of aviation operations and business models.
New IoT software is being built to enhance air flights monitoring and allow aircrafts to take free routes outside the predetermined air corridors. Once connected to each other and to the on-ground points, planes will be able to communicate with each other in order to calculate upfront where their flight trajectories intersect in order to avoid accidents. When planes are able to take the shortest route to their destination, they’ll be able to save fuel and, thus, reduce carbon emissions and the entire travel time.
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Improved traveller experience
The IoT will increase accuracy of satellite navigation systems and make them more precise than the currently used radar and radio navigation. This will allow flights to be always on time and make passenger experience much more pleasant.
There’re already formal requirements that all aircrafts should be fitted with the satellite navigation in Europe by 2017 and in the United States – by 2020.
The IoT will further enhance passenger experience by enabling smart airports that, in their turn, will help speed up and improve passenger check-ins, customs procedures and security.
Innovative business models
Many air companies including startups and the small ones will be able to leverage the power of the IoT in getting the opportunity to operate globally via broad partners networks and allowing passengers to easily resell their flight tickers or rent out seats on private jets. In short, the IoT has a great potential to enable the sharing economy in aviation and change the rules air companies are used to following when providing their services.
Back in 2012, GE Aviation and Accenture formed a joint venture company called Taleris that provides intelligent operation services to airlines and cargo carriers that help improve assets management efficiency by leveraging aircraft performance data, forecasts, recovery and predictive analytics. The company fits multiple aircraft parts and elements with “tip to tail” sensors that provide predictive information to be used for aircraft maintenance optimization and improvement of flight operations. In the mid- to long-term, such smart sensor technologies allow for significant cost saving as a result of proactive technical services and timely issues detection and troubleshooting.
The innovative IoT technologies prompt us to put a mental health of a pilot to the frontline. What if the pilot appears to be incompetent or having psychological issues (e.g. suicidal intentions)? And can we do anything to eliminate the risks associated with the human error? The answer is: yes, we can! What is left to do is to merely start implementing the system worked out by Boeing and Honeywell several years ago.
The gist of such a system is very simple: in any unclear situation, when there’s a suspicion that the pilot is behaving the unusual way, all controls inside the cockpit get totally blocked and impossible to switch on/off. The pilot can pull any shafts and press any buttons, but he will be unable to control the plane as it will be monitored and fully controlled from the ground.
Fly-by-wire technology is becoming increasingly applied to modern airplanes. Instead of physical controls (wire rope cable, water main, intensifiers), computer-controlled and wire-connected electric actuators are used. Modern flight navigation also leverages ground beacons and geolocation technologies. For instance, glide slope beacons provided in Course-Glide-Path system are often applied to Instrument Landing system.
From the theoretical perspective, all the needed technologies have been already built to enable highly secure pilotless flights. The problem is that for the time being we cannot fully trust electronics for emergency issues. Accordingly, we cannot fully exclude humans from piloting in the immediate future. Furthermore, it will take tremendous expenditures for all the airplanes throughout the world to be refitted to work seamlessly with pilotless technology.