Interview

Driving Digitization in the Aviation Sector

Digitization is having a tremendous effect on aviation, across business aircraft and commercial airlines. The Connected Aircraft is driving a revolution within the aviation industry which is witnessing developments in the use of connectivity and data in regards to real-time weather tracking, flight planning and maintenance.

What are the major challenges faced by the aviation industry that can be overcome by technology?

Globally, airlines are facing a volatility in fuel prices which is exacerbated in India by a high tax on aviation turbine fuel. The noticeable effects are a push up on costs, a squeezing of margins and potentially negative effects for passengers, primarily in the form of fare increases. While not all factors are directly within an airlines control, the increasing use of fuel efficiency solutions is one way to combat and reduce the effects of changing fuel prices.

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“The amount of live data that can be afforded to airlines brings them new opportunities for overcoming some of the challenges that are inherent in the market, such as rising fuel prices, demand for consistently low fares, and questions around maintaining business margins.”

Neelu Khatri
President, India
Honeywell Aerospace

[quote]

Honeywell’s GoDirect Flight, a dedicated set of services and applications offered to improve the safety and efficiency of flight operations, provides real-time information that can be used by pilots, crews and airlines to make better-informed decisions around factors such as flight paths, variable weather conditions and approaches to airports. Our GoDirect Flight Efficiency software is strong example of one of our flight services that takes a strategic approach to managing the impacts of fuel through providing data analysis, reporting, and monitoring tools to help airlines conserve fuel, while reducing costs and environmental impact.

Maintenance is another major problem for the aviation industry, which can also be improved through solutions that intelligently apply aircraft data. By using tools that monitor and analyze the data that aircraft generate, airlines are able to better plan their maintenance schedules and reduce the amount of time that an aircraft is out of service, which in turn allows for the conserving of maintenance costs. Outside of aircraft operations, this also improves the passenger experience as airlines are less likely to have to carry out unexpected maintenance, thus reducing delayed and cancelled flights.

How is digitization and new technologies like AI and Robotics transforming aviation?

As expected, digitization is having a tremendous effect on aviation, across business aircraft and commercial airlines, specifically in the way those groups are operating.  The Connected Aircraft is driving a revolution within the aviation industry. We are seeing developments in the use of connectivity and data in regards to real-time weather tracking, flight planning and maintenance. More pilots are using real-time data to avoid harmful weather conditions and guarantee a safer journey. Flight-planning applications let pilots preview the flight path for take-off and landing to minimize delays and help passengers reach their destinations on time. Additionally, maintainers are seeing how data analysis is leading to more predictive maintenance when identifying mechanical parts that need to be fixed or replaced before an aircraft is grounded, ensuring it’s well maintained and downtime is decreased.

Information such as flight charts that the pilot may previously have had on paper is now stored and displayed interactively on an iPad, bringing about the opportunity for this information to be kept as up to date as is possible. In addition, pilots are able to preview 3D visualizations of this data, truly transforming their experience. The Connected Aircraft is evolving aviation both on the ground and in the air with new levels of connectivity, software and services.

Where is the Indian aviation sector in terms of technology adoption compared to global counterparts?

Regulation has previously prevented the adoption of technologies such as in-flight Wi-Fi, which is widely available across other markets. However, things are changing in India. A recent update by the Department of Telecommunications outlines that Wi-Fi and mobile services will be permitted in flight, falling in line with the rest of the world. These types of developments are accelerating India’s progress towards a standard that is common around the rest of the world and is vital for a domestic aviation industry that is growing at almost 28 per cent a year.

While India may be behind in some aspects of aviation, it is a sector that is receiving great commitment from the government with investment of Rs. 1 Lac Crore being promised over the next five years to increase capacity and build new airports. We have seen Indian carriers use such offerings and we expect this adoption trend to grow in the future as more carriers want to reap similar benefits to those airlines that currently deploy these advanced solutions.

How is Honeywell’s expertise helping in developing the Indian aerospace infrastructure?

Our experiences, both locally in India and across the world, are informing our position, relationships and technologies for the Indian market. As the use of Honeywell products grows in terms of the number carriers adopting solutions and the number fleets ultimately fitted with them, the role that Honeywell plays in developing national aerospace infrastructure will rise with it. We have the ability to offer airlines and business jet operators a comprehensive range of products for everything from small passenger jets right up to jumbo aircraft. Over the years, Jet Airways, Air India and IndiGo have adopted Honeywell technologies and services, and we are consistently working with Indian partners to grow and develop within the market while also contributing positively to the local aerospace infrastructure.

How do you see emerging and future technology transforming the aviation market in India?

As India grows to become the third largest aviation market by 2025, per the International Air Transport Association, behind only China and the United States, it is undoubted that technology will have a large part to play. If we look at the example of The Connected Aircraft, being able to use the vast amount of data that a single flight generates can contribute great benefits. This allows operators to look at areas that have previously been out of bounds or those that they have had too little information to act on, giving them the ability to make products more dependable, maintenance more foreseeable, and flight even safer and more efficient.

A major challenge for the industry will be the way that it handles the aviation experience for the ever growing number of passengers. Jayant Sinha, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Technological Developments, announced growth in the domestic market to 200 million passengers, doubling over the past four years. This growth will see the operators increasing efficiency for the whole flying experience, from the check-in to a reduction in delayed or cancelled flights to an in-flight experience that sees connectivity being standard. This will represent a big technological leap for Indian aviation, and at present, efficiency is one of the weakest points of the local market.

As previously mentioned, the amount of live data that can be afforded to airlines brings them new opportunities for overcoming some of the challenges that are inherent in the Indian market, such as rising fuel prices, demand from passenger that want consistently low fares, and questions around how to maintain business margins. Honeywell allows airlines to think in motion, so they do not have to be reactive to issues. Instead they are able to analyze data relating to almost every aspect of an aircraft and their wider operation to see where they can adapt their methods and improve the business of flight.

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