Creating Truly Friendly Skies: The Cloud and Modern Aviation

January 9, 2019 Off By Hoofer

Article Written by Avery Phillips

The cloud is everywhere in aviation. No, that doesn’t mean a foggy takeoff from O’Hare – but big data might be the next big thing in getting planes off the runway safer no matter the weather. And it doesn’t stop there. More data means more analytics capability, and that means more on-time flights, healthier cabins, easier loading and unloading, and more. 

The truth is, the cloud, big data, and predictive analytics are the backbone of modern aviation, customer service, and comfort. How does all of this work together to provide a better flying experience? How can airline manufacturers used this data to improve planes from the start? Here are a few amazing facts about the cloud and modern aviation.

Maintenance and Safety

Of course, aircraft maintenance is one of the biggest concerns in the airline industry today, and companies are living and breathing safety. What do cloud computing and big data have to do with that? Turns out, more than you might think. 

One app used by Boeing is a hybrid combining sets of data that enables mechanics around the globe to verify and record aircraft maintenance. The real innovation in this app comes from the ability, through the cloud, to cross reference with other airline manufacturers and integrate their data into the same toolbox. This makes it easy for those airlines who use multiple aircraft manufacturers to get all the information they need from a single source. 

Not only is more information available, but artificial intelligence and predictive analytics housed in the cloud can atert mechanics and others to potential issues before they occur. An Oliver Wyman report says that by using predictive maintenance, eliminating unnecessary repairs, and alerting teams to issues early, fleet availability could increase by up to 35 percent and labor costs would be reduced around 10 percent. 

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings in the airline industry are making it possible to better control and schedule line maintenance as well. Why is it more efficient to do this in the cloud? First, most airlines don’t have the physical ability to store all of that data, and second, cloud data and software mean it is possible to work from anywhere, at any airport in the world. This has a great standardizing effect, making mechanics even more efficient. 

It is about more than just aircraft maintenance though. Boeing sales teams use an app that tracks flights all around the world, and they use it to illustrate to potential customers how much a new, faster aircraft could save the purchaser money and improve operations at the same time. 

When it comes to safety, airlines are turning to the cloud for answers and finding them.

Air Traffic Control

Another looming issue for modern aviation is air traffic control (ATC). From the increasing number of planes in the air to the retirement of many qualified ATC personnel, challenges in this area abound. In addition, things like private drones and other small aircraft, recently illustrated by airport closures in London, present new issues the industry has never had to face. 

One answer is cloud computing, predictive analytics, and a more automated system. The giant GE is working with NASA to bring NextGen technology to the cloud to improve efficiency and speed. Once adopted, air traffic controllers, pilots, and airlines will be able to communicate faster and with more efficiency. The cloud will enable them to have more accurate information in real time about a plane’s current position and future flight path, enabling them to improve traffic patterns and choose preferred routes even when airports are busy. 

Air traffic control is all about information management and exchange, a perfect use for the computing power and data processing provided by cloud computing.

Weather or Not To Fly

Besides maintenance, one of the major concerns and the cause of numerous delays is the weather. The good news is that cloud computing brings an even more precise ability to predict the weather. This is because of access to big data and weather patterns from several years. This gives forecasters a more concrete picture of what might happen next. 

This information, when curated and analyzed, can inform decision makers about what to do to minimize delays and cancellations and reroute inbound flights if necessary. Despite the fact that big data is everywhere, one area that is starved for enough real-time data is the weather prediction business. However, several tech startups are leveraging cheap components and smartphone technology to vastly improve our forecasting abilities. Such innovations are extremely valuable to modern aviation and may change how airports are operated. 

It may also change where future airports are constructed. Locating an airport for optimal weather as well as other considerations will also alter the future of modern aviation.

First Class for Everyone

What does all of this mean to the average airline passenger? Yes, improved fleet availability, better air traffic control, and more knowledgeable weather forecasts can mean more on time flights and less airport headaches. However, boarding often remains a nightmare that takes way too much time, and the comfort of airplane seats is hardly improving for most coach passengers. 

Cloud computing can change all of that. The issue is waiting for airlines to adopt them. Here are some possible applications: 

●      Boarding: While individuals are hard to predict, group behavior like boarding an aircraft follows a predictable pattern, and by leaning into that pattern, boarding can be even more efficient. Predictive analytics makes this possible as shown by Southwest Airline’s letter and number system.

●      Passenger Health: The air on an average flight is filled with germs, and many travelers take supplements to battle potential sickness. Through regular database updates and airflow improvements made possible with cloud computing, the health of passengers and staff can be greatly enhanced, saving airlines money on employee sick days, and making passengers happier.

●      Sees the Moment: Another problem involves vision issues and dry eye syndrome often caused by the lack of moisture in airplane air. Sensors that detect both humidity and temperature can modify the output of HVAC systems to alleviate these symptoms. This is a problem not only for passengers, but for staff and even pilots who often wear contacts and need relief.

●      Baggage Loading: No room in the overhead for your carry on? In the future, airlines will be better able to predict and manage baggage space as flights are fuller more often. 

Modern aviation is already in the cloud. It will continue to grow there as things like AI, predictive analytics, and other cloud functions change the way we think of planes, flying, airports, and passenger safety. As airlines adopt new applications and strategies, the skies will be even friendlier.


About the Author

Avery Phillips is a unicorn of a human being who loves all things relating to people and their entrepreneurial spirits. Comment down below or tweet her

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