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Connected aircraft: how to unlock data and make it useful

Published on  31 January by Pierre-Yves Benain , Portfolio Head e-aircraft, SITAONAIR
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If we can successfully unleash data from the new generation of connected aircraft, then we can totally transform airline operations, from maintenance to flight safety.

It’s an exciting time as our industry begins to create more and more value from aircraft data, delivering intelligence and analysis that will transform operations. At SITAONAIR, we’re starting to see the realization of great potential from this data.

Big data and analytics: opening possibilities

Using big data and analytics together with secure communications capabilities opens up a host of possibilities to monitor an aircraft’s components and on-board equipment. Real-time data enables aircraft operators to apply predictive maintenance to monitor braking parts, for example. More than that, analytics can improve fuel usage, as fuel is one of the biggest expenses for airlines. The big challenge, however, is extracting relevant data and making it useful.

A growing goldmine of insights  

By 2034, the commercial aircraft fleet will double. Of the 43.000 that will be flying, 85% will be new generation models. Let me give you an idea: the Airbus A350 has approximately 6.000 sensors across the entire plane and generates 2,5 terabytes of data a day. The new model expected to take to the skies in 2020 will capture triple this amount of data!

New-generation aircraft will incorporate an unprecedented number of connected technologies. They’ll churn out colossal amounts of telemetry and data. This amount of aircraft data will undoubtedly be a challenge for the aviation industry – but it’s also a goldmine of valuable insights for operators. As an industry we must rise to this challenge.

First off, don’t lose your valuable aircraft data!

Data can be unlocked from every part of the aircraft – the cockpit, cabin and aircraft engines – to enhance performance and service. But to achieve this there must be effective data management. Only then can we retrieve meaningful information. Accessing this data is complex and airlines can lose up to 25% of their aircraft data due to inefficient management.

Airlines have also been reluctant to permit OEMs access to sensitive data, and the complexity of achieving timely and tailored secure data transfer and distribution to relevant parties.  

To overcome this problem, SITAONAIR has developed e-Aircraft DataHub, a secure cloud-based data brokering and transformation service for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Aircraft data is crucial to the improvement of OEM services going forward.

Rolls-Royce: end-to-end aircraft engine management

Rolls-Royce, for example, is using e-Aircraft DataHub to work collaboratively with airlines on end-to-end aircraft engine management. OEMs can be confident that they’re receiving trusted, on-time data, delivered in a practical way. By optimizing the collection of data, Rolls-Royce and airline engineers will be able to organize the maintenance and servicing of their engines more efficiently to make better use of the aircraft’s time on the ground.

Making sense of the complex data

By acting as a secure, neutral data-broker between an OEM and an airline, e-Aircraft DataHub keeps the control and ownership of aircraft data firmly in the airline’s hands, while providing OEMs with greater insight to drive mutually-beneficial enhancements of their products. No other solution on the market puts airlines in control of their data sharing with third parties in this way.

The solution collects various types of unstructured data in different formats from operators’ ground servers and agreed external sources. It’s then classified, decoded, stored and enriched. This, now structured, data is sent to the OEM through an Application Programming Interface (API) via specific industry software decoders embedded in the core of the platform. Data is retrieved via an easy-to-use web portal.  

Leading the push to digitally transform aircraft operations

SITA currently bridges as much as 60% of the industry’s data exchange, among airlines, airports, aircraft and border agencies. e-Aircraft DataHub brings the power of data to the OEM, allowing them to turn data into insights and predictions for airlines. The solution will enable airlines to minimize disruption and optimize efficiencies.

Big data is rapidly changing the face of aviation as we know it. The ability to monitor and improve operations will inevitably make aircraft safer and make operations far more efficient than ever. The big challenge is to harness this data without increasing complexity and creating a hurdle to future advancements. Collaboration and sharing are in SITA’s DNA. Becoming an 'Aircraft DataHub' is well suited to this.

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