by Chandler Harris
As technology continues to transforms industries, the airline industry is no exception. The Connected Aircraft, or an aircraft featuring IP-enabled and connected components, is quickly becoming a reality and will feature numerous changes to passengers, flight crew, aircraft maintenance crew and more.
One of the key changes the Connected Aircraft will bring is changes in flight operations that will assist pilots, according to the book From the Ground Up: How the Internet of Things will Give Rise to Connected Aviation. The following are some of the new features of the Connected Aircraft that will help pilots make better-informed decisions before and during a flight.
A Better Bead on Weather
When it comes to weather forecasts, most of them are based on data that is six to 24 hours old. However, with a connected aircraft, weather forecasting will update more frequently and will even incorporate data from multiple aircraft flying on the proposed route. This enables pilots to make better decisions on and off the ground.
“Pilots would love to have a complete weather picture and see the same information that dispatchers have on the ground,” said Mark Miller from The Weather Company, in the book From the Ground Up.
An aircraft flying at cruising altitude typically has a forward radar range of around 300 nautical miles, which means it has about 30 minutes of flight time to the far edge of the radar zone. Honeywell has created an application that combines weather information with shared radar data across multiple aircraft. This shared information allows for multiple aircraft to have an enhanced visible area.
“By crowdsourcing, the view will be unlimited,” said Carl Esposito, vice president of strategy, marketing and product management at Honeywell. “It’s a different perspective of the weather – much richer and longer range.”
Combining better radar data with additional time management and air traffic flow systems will allow pilots and controllers to make strategic decisions earlier. This will be particularly effective over oceans, which lack effective radar coverage.
When it comes to turbulence while flying, the current process entails pilots reporting severe turbulence. This then requires aircraft maintenance crews to physically inspect the aircraft once it has landed. This process is often manual and subjective, according to industry experts.
Yet with technology such as the Weather Company’s Total Turbulence, information can be standardized and automated, and there is an opportunity to leverage data with crowdsourcing.
“We’re able to fundamentally solve that problem by constantly monitoring an aircraft, detecting when it is subject to a turbulence event, immediately reporting that to the ground, monitoring all the other aircraft in the area, and then notifying any other aircraft that may be impacted,” Miller said. “Aircraft are now acting as mobile turbulence sensors and feeding more and more data into the system.”
Air Traffic Control
Airspace congestion is a common problem in North America and Europe. Yet next-generation aircraft control systems are expected to help and have already been proven to do so in Australia.
The Metron Air Traffic Flow Management system in Australia is a Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) platform for optimizing system-wide traffic flow. It automates many of the decisions regarding aircraft sequencing and flow based on a rules engine, operator inputs, and various traffic management initiatives to reduce flight delays and flight hold times. This allows all the organizations who participate in it to share aircraft position, flight plan, and airport congestion data.
According to Stuart McGraw, product specialist at Virgin Airlines, in the first year of operation in Australia, Metron saved more than 8,000 hours of airborne flight time, translating into savings in excess of $131 million.
Advanced Flight Optimization
NASA developed a Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR) system that reveals what is possible with advanced flight optimization with Connected Aviation. It helps to manage an aircraft’s flight by gathering data from ground-based systems of the airlines and the air navigation service providers. NASA is currently testing the software with Alaska Airlines and Virgin America.
As far-reaching as these recent improvements are, they are only the beginning. Because the Connected Aircraft is a single component of Connected Aviation, where all the systems are making better decisions based on real-time input. This will save resources and provide a better flight experience for the passengers.
With more than 10 years writing experience Chandler has worked for three different newspapers as a writer, columnist and editor in chief. He has written articles for numerous national magazines, as well as written and edited official government documents, press releases, Web content, brochures, white papers, performance briefs, concept papers and instructional manuals.