The Jetsons were, as we have seen, surrounded by interconnected objects. How will the Internet of Things (IoT) impact the current and future aviation industry? For Peter Ryan, Honorary Member of the Defense Science and Technology Group, Aerospace Division, Australian Department of Defence, “Aviation is heavily regulated, slow to adopt change and very safety oriented. A strong business case would be needed to make a step change and adopt IoT technologies”. From his point of view, the introduction of IoT in aviation will take place gradually over the next five years, mainly in ground operations, for example for baggage handling (already in use in some airports).
According to Ryan, from 2020-2025, IoT will play a bigger role in aircraft logistics and maintenance, and from 2025-2030, IoT will be introduced into flight operations to improve aircraft performance. The IoT will also improve the efficiency of aircraft. The aircraft monitoring system will be enhanced with IoT devices that will provide performance diagnostics. Modern engines, for example, can currently have up to 200 sensors; future engines could have 5,000 sensors to collect large amounts of performance data and improve efficiency.
On safety, Ryan argues that interconnecting aircraft helps to avoid accidents and calculate optimal flight paths to reduce travel times and fuel consumption. At present, the position of aircraft is mainly monitored from the ground and only air traffic controllers have a complete picture of aircraft locations (although satellite tracking is gaining ground).
Other airlines have already started using or testing technologies, including:
Wearable or implanted devices for recording physiological data (heart rate and blood pressure) of crew members to assess workload
In-seat sensors to inform cabin crew of passenger experience and provide data for future technological improvements (entertainment quality) and in-flight services (meal quality and delivery) Smart baggage with GPS tracking and IoT sensors for location communication to speed up airport processes Ryan adds that IoT devices could also improve piloting by giving instant feedback, not only to the pilot as to the position and status of his own aircraft, but also to nearby devices. They can also warn of extreme weather risks.
PUSH THE LIMITS
Boeing celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. In the July 2016 issue of Frontiers magazine , Boeing outlines its own vision for the next 100 years, a vision based on “our spirit of adventure and continued desire to explore the universe.” Brian Tillotson, Chief Engineer, Research and Technology at Boeing, envisions establishing a colony in space for the families of the future. “Like in the cartoon, the whole question is how do you fix the pipes, mow the grass and raise children in this environment?
Kevin Bowcutt, hypersonic expert at Boeing, wants to build a hypersonic aircraft capable of circumnavigating the globe in a few hours. This is perfectly in line with what our fully automated world will be like. “All you have to do is enter the destination “Paris” on your phone; a driverless vehicle will pick you up at home, your phone will ring to let you know that it has arrived in front of your home. You will only have to board to be driven to the airport, your luggage will be taken care of there and you will only have to take your place in a plane or in a hyper-metro which will transport you to the other side of the ocean. »
SOLUTIONS IN THE SKY
Airbus also discussed its vision for the future. As Mr. Drogoul points out, by 2030, 60% of the worldʼs population will live in cities, 10% more than today. Traffic jams will be even worse and they will weigh heavily on the economy. To meet this challenge, Airbus experts are, of course, looking for solutions in the sky “to come up with radical concepts that will relieve urban congestion”. Working with the A3, its innovation outpost in Silicon Valley, Airbus is pursuing a project dubbed Vahana, which Mr. Drogoul describes as “a flying autonomous platform for passenger and cargo transportation.”
Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, recently announced plans for new supersonic passenger flights across the Atlantic, unveiling a prototype aircraft capable of linking London and New York in three and a half hours. He partnered in this operation with Boom, a Denver-based start-up whose founder and CEO, Blake Scholl, says: “Jet planes have been around for almost sixty years, but we still fly at the same speed as in the 1960s. Concorde designers didn’t have the technology for affordable supersonic travel, now we have it. »
From electric flight controls, to supersonic and hypersonic aircraft, the evolution in aviation has never been more exciting. Sit back in your seat, fasten your seatbelt and prepare for takeoff. The Jetsons may not be that far away.