Many Internet of Things applications for industry occur on the surface of planet Earth, such as improving agriculture yields and treating sleep apnea. But IoT applications are being used to address major planning, maintenance, and fuel saving problems that commercial airlines are currently facing. In 2014, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that passenger numbers are expected to reach 7.3 billion by 2034, and smart IoT monitoring and cataloging solutions need to be implemented to keep track of an ever increasing fleet of planes in the sky.
The Internet of Aircraft
Aviatonweek.com states that most commercial airplanes still use outdated engines with fewer than 250 sensors to monitor performance and mechanical operations, while modern engines can have up to 5,000 sensors generating up to 10GB of data per second. This information is useful for maintenance once the plane has landed and the data can be downloaded and analyzed, but what if this data was received in real-time by maintenance personnel on the ground? Maintenance teams would be able to see any problems before the plane lands, allowing them to have parts and technicians ready and get to work by the time passengers are standing around the baggage carousel.
Predictive maintenance extends the lifespan of airplanes by fixing problems before they worsen and spread. When planes spend more time in the sky than they spend waiting for repairs in the hangar, flight delays are shortened leading to happier customers and a more trustworthy brand image.
The advantages of IoT aircraft extend to fuel costs and efficiency as well. Fuel takes up a majority of the operating expenses of commercial aviation, and using real-time analysis of an airplane engines sensors can detect and correct the operating inefficiencies that translate to increased fuel consumption. The engine of an aircraft is a complex machine with many moving parts, and much like an ecosystem, what is good for one piece benefits the rest of the engine. A well-maintained, monitored, efficient engine reduces fuel consumption, extends the lifespan of the engine, and reduces accidents and engine failures.
IoT Communication in the Clouds
Flight paths used in commercial aviation are overseen by government entities such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in the European Union. These agencies look at a number of flight factors, weather reports, and pilot reports to determine the safest flight paths for planes embarking to their destinations. Air traffic control agencies do an amazing job of collecting and analyzing data to determine safe flight routes, but they do not have the ability to receive instantaneous data from the plane while in flight.
Airplane sensors could provide information about changes in pressure and temperature, or levels and intensity of turbulence. The primary strength of IoT is its ability to quantify and catalogue a wider range of data sets than human beings are capable of at a faster speed than they can report it. With IoT-enabled airplanes, information such as turbulence or bad weather can be immediately reported from sensors on the affected plane to flight-path management agencies. This real-time transmission and cataloguing of data from the aircraft itself means that flight paths can be redirected as soon as a problem is detected from the plane leading to increased safety of passengers, and awareness of conditions in the sky.
A safer, more efficient Internet of Things in aircraft is becoming the new standard. As the IoT market continues to grow, more and more industries will be impacted by the IoT ecosystem. Do you have a basic understanding of what and how your business can gain from the Internet of Things? Check out this infographic for a visual walk-through of key parts of the IoT process.