How digital transformation is reshaping the aviation sector
The aviation sector is increasingly making use of emerging technologies to maintain flight safety and enhance customer experience
The aviation industry is going through an era of transformation using digital technology to improve efficiency and safety, reduce costs and provide the best possible experience for the passengers. Here are 9 ways in which uptake of digital technology can be a valuable tool for the sector:
Drones in Airport
Many engineering companies are using drones to create a pavement survey for airport pavement management. High definition images captured from low altitude by the drone can be used to establish a repair program for airport maintenance. The airport planners, which keep track of the pavement condition, use drones to decide whether they need any replacement. In the airport sector, drones are mainly used for construction projects, wherein they collect land surveys before the project begins. They also help in monitoring and documenting the progress of the project during the construction process.
Drones can be used to mitigate wildlife hazard, which poses a threat to airport safety. They have been effective in passive wildlife mitigation such as grasslands, woods and scouting ponds, which are located near the airport environment.
Airports nowadays are implementing drone and high-tech surveillance towers near the runways to mitigate Foreign Object Damage (FOD) to the airport control centre.
Drones in Airlines
Drones can also be used to reduce the cost and time spent on the commercial aircrafts’ maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO).
The damages, which occur due to lightning can be identified through visual inspection. If the inspection is done manually, it takes nearly four to six hours, however, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can finish this visual inspection within half an hour.
These drones can be used to find problematic areas in the fuselage and hence, can help in planning and increasing the efficiency of repair work.
Micro-drones can be used to inspect inside the aircraft engines. The automation of defect detection can help engineers to find potential damage in the parts, which can be inspected visually at the later stage.
Information Technology (IT)
Information technology plays an important role in the growth of the airline industry. Reports suggest that 85% of airlines tickets are booked through online mode. Airports are nowadays using touchless technologies to keep passengers safe and healthy during this unprecedented time.
The airline industry is realising the importance of blockchain and has started implementing it to improve its security system, operational efficiency and provide better customer experience.
Blockchain can save passenger data and maintain it on a virtual database, thus reducing the dependency on physical IDs as proof of the passengers. The management of customer data using blockchain technology can help in building robust security systems. It can also help in turning the flying miles into valuable assets by giving benefits to the customer.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
AR and VR are emerging technologies in the digital world. They are expected to be used in the airport space for enhancing customer experience. Already this technology has been implemented at some international airports to help passengers navigate inside the airport and reach a specific place.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
From chatbots to voice-based search, airlines are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to solve customer problems. Advanced AI can also be used in the revenue management department to increase the accuracy of setting the price for the tickets.
AI can help crew management in creating a roster for the cabin and cockpit crew according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards.
In case of flight delay and cancellation, AI can help the management to send automated messages to the respective passengers and reduce the expenses of maintenance and compensation to the travellers. It can segregate the bags accurately with the help of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags at the early baggage storage warehouse in the airport. AI can also give proper feedback analysis of the frequent and experienced travellers. It can also optimize fuel efficiency by choosing the shortest route to the destination.
Beacons technology at the airport can help the travellers to navigate between terminals. Beacons are small, wireless transmitters that use low-energy Bluetooth technology to send signals to other smart devices nearby. They can help venders to send relevant information and updates like boarding gate number, baggage carousel and flight status to passengers at the airport.
Robotics can be used in the aviation sector to enhance customer experience at the airport terminal in areas such as navigation, driverless buggies to carry physically challenged passengers, entertainment of children and in providing smarter security.
The airline industry is consistently working on implementing the biometric feature at the airport. Face recognition boarding gates is one of the cutting-edge technologies, which has been implemented at the airports. Such services reduce the queue and improve passenger processing experience.
(The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Transportation Management, UPES School of Business)