There are many solutions enabled by IoT technologies that will change the way we travel by air — some are already in use:
- Connected, personal, in-flight entertainment systems with online gaming, live TV, external-view cameras and noise-canceling earphones for a comfortable, entertaining flight
- High throughput satellite connection providing inflight high-speed Wi-Fi and cell reception
- Gate delivery of purchases (both airport and in-flight e-commerce)
- Telemedicine systems to effectively react to in-flight health problems
And others are planned or being tested:
- Online service with integrated check-in, security and boarding service, leveraging biometrics, smart devices, sensors and tags — shortening the lead times to 30 minutes
- Autonomous food-dispensing trolleys
- Virtual personal assistants using passengers’ mobile phones and their sensors to guide them through and assist with transfers and in-flight services using natural language and augmented reality
Profitability and environmental stability
The airline business is a tough one — the average global profit margin in 2016 was just 5%. This is compounded by the growing pressure to minimize environmental impact, in terms of fuel emissions and consumption, and noise. Again, IoT technology can help here.
In addition to helping extend the maintenance windows and working life of an aircraft, smart sensors can, for example, individually configure the aerodynamics of each aircraft based on actual conditions (e.g., retracting a flap by a couple of millimeters can result in saving over 50kg of fuel per flight).
Other IoT applications include:
- Continuous descent approaches and real-time flight path control enabled by next generation flight management and communication systems that can save tons of fuel per flight while improving safety and comfort of passengers
- Use of analytics and automated control leveraging GPS and sensors to help manage aircraft and service vehicles, reducing unnecessary apron traffic and saving time and fuel
- Additive manufacturing (3D metal printing) enabling lighter engines made of much fewer parts, and making parts on demand to improve manufacturing efficiency
- Augmented reality enabling faster, safer and less error-prone building and maintenance of aircraft
Considering the fact that each pushback and startup sequence of a large aircraft costs thousands of dollars, or that large airports handle more than 10 suitcases every second while delivering a ton of fuel every minute, it is clear that IoT technologies are indispensable to maintain the situational awareness needed to run airport logistics.
Aviation continues to be territory for true innovation, continuing a tradition in aerodynamics, engine design and material science. Many agree that in the future, the most significant advancements will be enabled by IoT technologies — using sensors, omniconnectivity, automation and robotics, AI, virtual and augmented reality.
Let’s get onboard and enjoy the ride.