1. Autonomous Aircraft
Many wonder if we will ever encounter self-flying planes. While the question is somewhat rhetorical, let’s review where we are today and what capabilities have been tested so far.
Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL)
eVTOL aircraft that use electric power to hover, take off and land vertically are becoming increasingly popular as the aviation industry seeks to provide efficient, point-to-point transportation between urban areas, avoiding congestion and providing a means of transportation alternative to ground transport.
Companies such as Lilium, Archer Aviation, and others are actively working on their eVTOL aircraft models. Lilium aims to launch commercial operations of their 7-seater eVTOL, the Lilium Jet, with a range of 155 miles and speed up to 175 mph in 2025. The same year, Archer Aviation, which is working with United Airlines, intends to launch its commercial air taxi service, Archer Midnight.
It is evident that eVTOLs are superior in many ways, such as reduced noise pollution, faster air travel, sleeker design, and… Attention… The potential to be completely autonomous! Although as of now, they are mostly designed to have a pilot on board or be operated remotely by a pilot, there were experimental autonomous eVTOLs that had undergone testing successfully.
Industry Giants Taking the Lead
Major players in the aviation industry, such as Boeing and Airbus, are also investing in autonomous aircraft technology. It is being done to maintain a competitive edge and be at the forefront of the industry.
Imagine a scenario where regulation favors autonomous flights one day. If Airbus was fully prepared to launch its latest development while Boeing was behind, it could potentially lead to severe consequences for Boeing (and vice versa). Therefore, both industry giants have completed projects dedicated to autonomous flying without pilot intervention.
Airbus A350-1000 widebody airliner has successfully achieved fully autonomous taxi, takeoff, and landings in a series of test flights. On the other hand, Boeing conducted flight tests for five jets that were autonomously flown by artificial intelligence (AI).
Regulatory Bodies Are Not Ready
While numerous companies are actively working towards developing autonomous aircraft, it’s clear that the regulatory framework has not yet come to a stage where single-pilot operations, let alone full autonomy, are seen as feasible.
The aviation industry operates under strict safety standards, and any drastic shift in operational procedures requires comprehensive evaluation and validation. Due to the complexity and criticality of flight operations, it is unlikely that near or even relatively distant future legislation will allow single-pilot operations or fully autonomous flights.
2. AI-driven Solutions
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize the aviation industry. It can be used to improve flight safety, optimize aircraft maintenance, enhance customer experience, pilot training, etc.
Out of all maintenance strategies, predictive maintenance is probably one of the most complex and expensive to implement. The good news is that it enables an airline to save money in the long term.
It requires a lot of data to be collected before it can be successfully analyzed and used. For that, sensors and intelligent and artificial intelligence technologies are needed. For instance, airplanes have numerous sensors that continuously monitor aircraft parts like engines, wings, landing gear, avionics, etc. The data is then analyzed by applying machine learning algorithms and predictions of equipment failures are made before the failures occur.
This is how you can stick to a maintenance strategy that keeps an aircraft in its best shape without conducting needless maintenance tasks or stocking up on spare parts.
One example of an aviation company known for being a leader in predictive maintenance is the Lufthansa Technik MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) organization. Through early detection of potential problems, the company enhances the safety and reliability of the aircraft, meeting the highest industry standards. It also provides digital platforms and tools, allowing airlines to access and visualize the state of their aircraft in real time.
We all know standard flight simulation training devices. But did you know that it is possible to integrate AI-powered software into them to improve pilot training?
AI-driven simulators allow pilots to hone their skills in a secure environment by simulating diverse flight conditions, emergencies, and system failures. The software can also analyze data in real-time, provide instant feedback on student performance, and give instructors invaluable insights, such as areas for improvement, response time, and more, which paves the way for a more tailored student learning plan.
Your PILOT CAREER
starts with a first click
3. 3D Printing
Aerospace was a very early adopter of 3D printing, and it continues to apply it for spare parts printing as it means lower costs, faster lead times, and more flexible design and development methods. Interior elements like cabin brackets, air vents, and ducting systems, engine components, including nozzles, exhaust parts, and certain combustion chamber elements, can be 3D printed.
In 2023, 5he 3D printing in aerospace and defense market size is estimated at USD 3.04 billion and is expected to reach USD 7.37 billion by 2028. Airbus, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., General Electric Company and Safran SA are the biggest players.
Biometric technology, such as facial recognition and fingerprint scanning, can revolutionize airport security protocols and streamline the boarding process significantly. You may have never experienced it, but palm vein recognition is another innovative biometric technology that is increasingly used in airport security and passenger processing.
For example, Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, has implemented a biometric-enabled self-service system known as “Smart Travel,” which uses palm vein scanning as a key component. The palm vein recognition system verifies the passenger’s identity, allowing them to proceed through all stages without needing physical documents or manual checks.
5. Virtual Reality Training
The last (but not least) breakthrough technology we would like to mention is VR, offering immersive and hands-on experiences for student pilots. By integrating VR into MCC and Type Rating training stages, BAA Training further improves the skills and knowledge of its students, ensuring they can practice procedures and gain experience in a realistic environment.
With a VR head-mounted display, you find yourself in an environment with lifelike 3D effects. Besides giving a depth of view, VR pilot training solutions offer a 360-degree view of the surroundings. This way, students can better perceive distances, shapes, and spatial relationships in the “virtual cockpit.” Thanks to the portability of VR headsets, they can perform the procedure training anywhere, at any time.
In this era of rapid technological advancement, the aviation industry does not fall behind. AI-powered solutions are gaining momentum, and the integration of biometric authentication is simplifying travel processes while numerous companies strive to develop the best autonomous aircraft. Moreover, forward-looking pilot schools, like BAA Training, are integrating VR technology to bring pilot training to a new level. The future is here, promising an exciting journey for all of us!