How big data is making the aviation industry a safer place

Last night an interesting programme on BBC 2 ‘City in the Sky’ looked at the growth of the aviation industry, the massive increase in the number of flights that are taken on a daily basis, and how the industry is continually innovating in response to this.

One area of interest was the developments within Big Data and the impact they are having on the aviation industry. Manufacturers like Rolls-Royce are utilising Big Data Analytics to help make their aircrafts safer. Sensors are placed on every aircraft engine that they make, these send vast amounts of data back, in real-time, about the health of the engine. The sensors can alert Rolls-Royce of any changes in normal operations. For example, if a part is faulty and not performing as it should, the Rolls-Royce operations teams can choose to ground the flight, schedule maintenance or alert pilots of a mechanical issue before it becomes a serious problem.

The benefits of being able to monitor and improve flight operations, reliability, maintenance and safety within the aviation industry could be groundbreaking. However, in order to cope with the levels of big data that will be produced and need analysing in a real-time state will require careful consideration.

An article in Aviation Week looks at the impact of Big Data and how the industry can utilise it without becoming flooded in data. The key questions will be: What should be connected? There is already a vast amount of data being transmitted during a flight to people on the ground but what other devices on the plane could benefit from further monitoring? Ray Valeika, writing for Aviation Week, proposes that connecting log items, real-time tracking of equipment and engine monitoring would be a good place to start.

The aviation industry uses the very best in modern technology and Big Data is just one area where they are seeing real benefits. According to IBM’s whitepaper on ‘Commercial Aviation and Aerospace: Big Data Analytics for Advantage, Differentiation and Dollars’ an average flight can produce between 500 and 1,000 gigabytes of data.

Whilst Big Data is becoming more integrated into current aviation practices the real test will be how can future aircrafts fully integrate Big Data to benefit rather than hinder the progression of the aviation industry.

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