Connected Aircraft: Data and connectivity unleash new opportunities for operators

|January 29, 2018 0

Soma Tah

Connectivity has been transforming our lives in multiple ways. Mobiles and connectivity have spurred innovations that brought about new levels of convenience at home, in the offices, and even outdoors. Similarly, for aircraft operators, connectivity presents a new set of operational and comfort benefits that were previously unavailable.

Until the middle of this month, flyers were not allowed to make calls and access the internet in the Indian airspace, but not anymore. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has now allowed in-flight connectivity- which is going to unleash a world of opportunities for the aircraft operators. We spoke to Siddharth Sen, Director- Marketing & Business Development, Honeywell Aerospace, India to know more about how aerospace/aviation industry is poised to be transformed by enhanced connectivity.

                                 

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As TRAI has now allowed in-flight connectivity, how do you see the scope of in-flight connectivity in India vis-a-vis the global uptake?

High-speed, reliable in-flight connectivity is becoming an expectation for passengers. The Third Annual Global In-Flight Connectivity Survey, published by Inmarsat, showed 60 percent of passengers believe in-flight Wi-Fi is a necessity, not a luxury.

Introducing in-flight Wi-Fi in the Indian airspace is a revolutionary step. The aerospace sector in the Indian market has been growing for decades, and with the increasing need for in-flight Wi-Fi, airlines are looking at different schemes to provide connectivity for their customers.

A recent study by the London School of Economics revealed that Wi-Fi on an airplane will be a universal demand on commercial aircraft by 2035, and will increase the potential for additional revenue for airlines.

The trends and data outlined in the surveys highlight that investing in connectivity is important, and that quality of the connection is arguably just as significant as simply offering it. With Inmarsat’s GX Aviation powered by Honeywell’s JetWave hardware, passengers get the desired high-quality Wi-Fi experience that they are looking for.

When compared to other global markets, India too is working towards an optimistic future by creating promising schemes such as Make in India and Regional Connectivity, allowing operators and airports to adopt advanced solutions for connectivity and services. The government is working closely with the Ministries of Home Affairs, Telecom and Civil Aviation to achieve the vision of a digitally empowered India by providing enhanced connectivity to citizens in the air.

Could you highlight some of the opportunities unleashed by the ‘connected aircraft’ phenomenon? 

Connected Aircraft provides the opportunity for operators to access more aircraft data than ever before, ultimately changing the way people communicate on and with an aircraft today and in the future.

Operators are seeing the benefits of Connected Aircraft solutions through improved operational efficiency and cost savings because of better access to data. Honeywell, in 2017, has completed the airline industry’s first-ever trial with Cathay Pacific to demonstrate how this solution and use of advanced data analytics can improve operational availability of its A330 fleet. The GoDirect Connected Maintenance solution proactively troubleshoots mechanical issues to avoid aircraft downtime and unexpected repairs costs. This will help save several hundred thousand dollars in operational and maintenance costs per aircraft for the airline.

Earlier this year, India’s Jet Airways adopted GoDirect Fuel Efficiency software, which collects data from operator IT systems to provide data analysis and reporting and ultimately improve fuel usage with five percent annual fuel savings.

Applications such as GoDirect Cabin Connectivity offer operators complete services to easily manage and control satellite communication solutions while benefiting from unparalleled connectivity.

The airline/aircraft data is generally siloed across multiple solutions and business units. Does it prevent them from unlocking the true value of their data? 

Local airlines tend to use services and offerings from a variety of brands, but with India’s passenger traffic increasing and airports becoming travel hubs, operators are looking for a more streamlined service to help them be more cost effective and efficient.

With this in mind, Honeywell’s Connected Aircraft links hardware and software to ensure airlines have complete access to all data an aircraft can provide via a desktop or handheld devices.

To better centralize all of the applications and information an operator needs, Honeywell offers its GoDirect suite of services as a one-stop-platform, where operators, pilots, and maintainers can benefit from a range of solutions for a safer and more productive experience. Through GoDirect services, airlines are covered for in-flight connectivity management, flight support, maintenance service plans and avionics. For instance, GoDirect Flight Preview gives pilots an accurate preview of the runway and terrain long before they start their approach. In this way, airlines can find all the services they require in one place to ensure they can provide the passengers with a seamless in-flight experience -while unlocking the value of the relevant data that help them stay efficient too.

Honeywell is already working with DARPA on virtual window tech for military ground vehicles. Could you elaborate more how AR/VR/MR change the flight operations?

Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are not terms you would normally hear within the aerospace industry. Honeywell’s work with DARPA is looking towards keeping people safer in combat vehicles on the battlefield. Honeywell successfully completed research and testing of a virtual window technology last year as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program. The first phase of testing began in June 2015 when Honeywell experimented with the concept and possibility of a windowless land vehicle. Operators of a windowless vehicle were able to effectively see what was around them by using an augmented and virtual reality headset along with a wraparound display. The virtual window systems were tested by driving a fully enclosed vehicle on a rugged, off-road desert course.

Being the first case where a natural viewing experience has been achieved in an indirect and windowless driving system, GXV-T research could enable an entirely new way of driving. Vehicle operators could eventually get a full 360-degree view of their surroundings, which would allow them to use new methods and strategies to stay protected from external threats. Crucial information such as optimal routes, difficult terrain or troop movements could be achieved in the future augmented systems which will help operators be more accurately informed about their mission. The virtual reality technology would also be useful in training or simulation environments.

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