Artificial Intelligence in Aviation & Aerospace

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has progressed rapidly and already has a significant presence in many industries including aviation, aerospace, and defense. AI can revolutionize design, manufacturing as well as operations and provide operational advantages if incorporated well.

Find more information about the impact of artificial intelligence in the aviation, aerospace, and defense industry, the current utilization of AI technology, and the future outlook. 

Artificial Intelligence in Aviation

Airlines are using artificial intelligence to gather and analyze data, which then helps make valuable business decisions to improve operational efficiency, customer satisfaction as well as increase revenue.

Airlines are mainly using artificial intelligence in these fields:

  • Artificial Intelligence in Aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO)
  • Operations Management and Revenue Optimization
  • Customer Service and Engagement

AI in Aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO)

Many aircraft accidents have been a result of faults missed during aircraft maintenance. Thus, airlines and MRO providers are now utilizing artificial intelligence in this sector to help identify and predict failure patterns and maintenance requirements. 

Modern aircraft are installed with a multitude of sensors to monitor and provide structural health data in real time. Aircraft and engine manufacturers such as Boeing, Airbus, and GE now make aircraft structural health as well as historical aircraft maintenance data available to the cloud-based data repository.

Thus, airlines and aircraft MRO providers are utilizing this data and AI analytics system to obtain predictive maintenance alerts which helps them take proactive measures on time and reduce the chances of fatal accidents

How AI can Help Airline Operations Management and Revenue Optimization?

Airlines operate with an extremely low-profit margin. Thus, any option to improve revenue is a huge help. A few such areas which need constant optimization is towards aircraft fleet management, route planning, and airfare pricing.   

Route planning and allocating the available aircraft fleet to gain maximum revenue throughout the extensive route network has become more of a challenging task. Thus, airlines now rely more on AI solutions to gather and analyze the demand on various routes, macroeconomic factors, variable price willingness of customer to pay on different routes, and expected marginal seat revenue (EMSR) among other factors.   

Based on these insights, airlines can make better decisions to optimize flight routes, aircraft allocation as well as dynamic pricing of airfare as well as ancillary services. 

AI for Airline Customer Service and Engagement

Artificial intelligence tools are being used to enhance certain customer service and experiences. For example, many booking services are now completely automated and the traveler can now easily engage with human-like chatbots, plan their trip and book the ticket, all online and completely by themselves. 

Also, the data gathered from potential and previous customers are used to understand their purchase behavior and recommend tailored services. The algorithms are also used to understand and analyze the customer’s sentiment on social media and other platforms to understand customer perception of the brand.    

Artificial Intelligence in Aerospace and Defense

Being at the forefront of cutting-edge technology development, the Aerospace and Defense industry can significantly benefit from the wide-scale deployment of artificial intelligence in various applications.

Aircraft Design Optimization with Artificial Intelligence

One of the ways, artificial intelligence is being utilized in the aerospace industry is to help in aircraft design optimization

AI has proved quite useful to aid in the conceptual design process of an aircraft as it utilizes massive computing power to easily analyze all different variables, design constraints, and the desired output to come up with interesting and highly efficient design solutions which are otherwise quite a large and complex undertaking for a human engineer.  

In some cases, AI has come up with such radical design suggestions that a human designer would never even consider. These organic design structures can then be built using 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing technology) which helps build complex structures previously impossible with conventional manufacturing, while also consuming less material and hence weight reduction. 

Also, read 3D Printing in Aerospace and Defense 

For example, researchers from the Technical University of Denmark have published research where they fed the wing dimensions of a Boeing 777 aircraft to a supercomputer which then produced a radical new aircraft wing design. The supercomputer designed an aircraft wing that had a completely different internal wing structure, was more hollow and weighed 5% less than the current wing used in Boeing 777.   

This AI assisted design process is known as generative design and it is bound to completely revolutionize the way ‘future aircraft’ are designed.    

How AI is Aiding the Aircraft Manufacturing Process?

Aircraft manufacturing is an extremely complex and costly process. A new aircraft design can take almost a decade, and even at the later stages manufacturing of an aircraft can range from 3-6 months. 

Various components are manufactured at different locations throughout the world which are then transported to a final assembly plant. Chances of damage, defect, and error in any of these stages are extremely high and can result in delays or need costly mitigating solutions. 

One of the areas that need utmost care at the manufacturing facility is to inspect products for any manufacturing defects. Certain materials such as composites are prone to damage even from minor accidents such as tool impact on the work floor. 

Currently, processes such as visual inspection are routinely undertaken to check product quality throughout various stages of aircraft part manufacturing. This process involves intensive manual labor and is costly. 

Artificial intelligence can help automate many such routine inspection processes to meet predefined quality requirements. 

This will not only reduce manual labor but also help reduce cost as well as improve employee safety by automating many of the high risk manual tasks at the manufacturing facility. 

Artificial intelligence for industrial inspection is already in growing demand as it has the potential to provide a significant reduction in production cost while also enhancing product quality and output by reducing the chances of human error. 

For example, Airbus has been utilizing AI and machine learning on the production floor to speed up its Airbus A350 production without compromising on quality. Airbus aims to further automate the manufacturing process to increase production output while enhancing product quality and reducing errors.   

Role of Artificial Intelligence in Autonomous Aircraft Future

Modern aircraft are already sophisticated enough to fly most of the journey on autopilot with limited supervision from a human pilot. However, many of the aircraft accidents are still accounted for human error as per the historical aircraft crash data. 

Thus, aircraft manufacturers and regulatory bodies are evaluating the possibility of whether flight safety can be further enhanced by incorporating more sophisticated artificial intelligence solutions in flight control. 

Although a fully autonomous passenger aircraft might still take time to become a reality because of safety and regulatory concerns, researchers are already evaluating such technologies in cargo and military aircraft. 

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Artificial Intelligence in Aviation & Aerospace

An overview of artificial intelligence in aviation, aerospace, and defense. How AI aids in aircraft design optimization, aircraft MRO, operations & more.

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Dipesh Dhital

Dipesh Dhital

Dipesh is the founder of and an avid follower and enthusiast of aviation/aerospace industry. He has background in aerospace engineering and MBA (Aviation Management). “I am an advocate for the new technological advancements in aviation/aerospace industry. I have been avidly following the developments in drone industry, electric aircraft as well as emerging technologies (such as AR/VR, 3D Printing, IoT, AI and Blockchain), which will have huge impact on aviation/aerospace industry in near future”.

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