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Trends shaping aerospace in 2020

2019 saw new commercial aircraft deliveries decline for the first time in more than a decade. This was caused by the grounding and subsequent production delays on certain aircraft models. Saying that, the overall outlook for the industry is looking strong with a backlog of ~14,000 orders to be fulfilled.
As for the fleet of commercial aircraft being operated today, more than half of them are over ten years old. As older aircraft need more repairs and overall maintenance, this creates a strong commercial MRO market.
Overall, this makes for a strong and vibrant marketplace for companies working with and in the commercial aerospace market. To get a better understanding on what’s happening in the industry, we at Axinom have compiled a list of five trends that we see shaping the industry in 2020 and beyond.

Cloud Everything

Cloud adaption in the airline industry started out as a cost-cutting measure. On-premise data centers were getting more and more expensive as the amount of data generated and stored ballooned. The cloud was a cost-effective solution to that problem.
Slowly but surely cloud adaption matured and airlines started updating and building their core systems with cloud capabilities in mind and not just using it for cheap storage. As more and more airline services were brought to the cloud, it started opening up new opportunities and possibilities.
Perhaps the biggest one being the ability to seamlessly connect services together and securely share data between them. This is facilitated through the use of web-based APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). These are interfaces through which interactions happen between an enterprise and applications that use its assets.
Airlines that are able to successfully migrate to a world of applications and APIs that connect them will be best positioned for the future. Exponential value can be achieved by leveraging the cloud ecosystem, where SaaS and best of breed apps seamlessly connect operations using APIs with that of their vendors, partners, and customers.

“Airlines that are able to successfully migrate to a world of applications and APIs that connect them will be best positioned for the future.”

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Going Paperless

Airlines have been steadily decreasing the use of paper-based documentation and tickets for years. Electronic flight bags and the use of online self-check-in and mobile tickets are nothing new.
What is new is aircraft maintenance and other vital documentation going paperless and using digital-only systems. Digital signatures in technical operations, electronic airworthiness compliance support, electronic maintenance records, etc.
This not only saves the environment by using less paper and ink for printing but can also lead to quicker turn-around time in cases of maintenance and repair as electronic information is instantly available and thus can be used to predict when certain parts need refurbishment or replacement

A person sitting in an airplane seat interacting with the wireless seatback in-front.
Wireless seatback
AirPassengers expect to be connected to the internet 24/7, but in-flight connectivity is expensive and so airlines are being creative to make the costs up somewhere else.
It can be used as an up-sell for premium cabin classes, on a free-trial basis (15 minutes free, then pay), for free as differentiation strategy from other airlines, etc. Luckily, the prices for connectivity are decreasing and this is enabling different strategies to flourish. For example, live TV on aircraft.
Another trend gaining more popularity is that of BYOD or Bring Your Own Device - more and more customers want to use their own devices while on-board an aircraft for browsing the internet and entertainment content In return, they expect airline IFE solutions to work not only in the seatback screen but also on their own device.
This creates an opportunity for airlines to drive ancillary revenue through personalized ads, in-flight e-commerce, and pre-booking on-ground services like taxis, hotels, entrance tickets among others.
All this device usage also creates data. A lot of data and usage statistics that can be used for analysis and service improvements.

Standardization in Data and Services

Aircraft generate a lot of data. Data that, until now, has largely lived in silos disconnected from each other. These data could be used for predictive maintenance, better IFE experiences and a lot more. The key is standardizing the data so that different services and applications could use it.
To some extent, this is being done through the used of web-based APIs that are used to connect and sync data between different services and core systems.
Moreover, data standardization and wide-spread use of APIs will lead to more companies to enter the aviation market with new and innovative offers and solutions. In turn, this will lead to established players in aviation coming up with new and better services of their own to compete and not lose market share. Win-win.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are buzzwords that are being used everywhere it seems. If you’re a technology company, it’s almost a requirement for success that you use AI in some shape or form. Buzzwords aside, these new technologies can actually be useful and help control costs in aviation.
Take aircraft maintenance as an example. Aircraft over ten years old makeup more than half of current fleets, increasing the need for maintenance and contributing to an estimated $76 billion global commercial MRO market in 2019. AI and machine learning-powered predictive maintenance can be used to:
  • Rare Failure Prediction
  • Find and diagnose structural defects and damages
  • Detect possible damage on impact with a variety of wildlife
  • Monitor aircraft structural health
  • Automatically detect anomalies and diagnose faults
  • Detect damage location
Additionally, AI can be used to use fuel more efficiently. In aviation, fuel use is at it’s highest during the climbing stage and how much is exactly used depends largely on the technique used by the pilots. AI can be used to analyze fuel use on a per aircraft model and pilot to create climbing stage profiles. These can then be used to teach pilots on the most efficient profiles.
On the passenger side, it can be used in customer service (chatbots) and ancillary revenue generation (dynamic ads, e-commerce, pre-loaded content) to name a few. As technology matures, more and more possibilities will open up.
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