The global economy is becoming increasingly connected. One contributing factor is the aviation industry’s rapid growth and technological innovations. Airlines and airports worldwide were directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic when millions of travelers canceled flights and governments imposed travel restrictions.
Although the lingering effects of the pandemic persist, the aviation industry is investing in various digital technologies to support recovery, improve the passenger experience and enhance business performance.
Here are seven rising technology trends in aviation to keep in mind as the industry works its way back to pre-pandemic levels.
More businesses are leveraging smart technology to improve their operations, and airports are no exception. Air travel demand has grown significantly, meaning millions of people are passing through airports worldwide. They can use the latest digital tech to manage a growing number of passengers better and streamline operations.
Many airports are in the process of modernizing their operations due to the pandemic. Most now have automated kiosks to speed up the passenger check-in process.
Deloitte suggests that the Internet of Things (IoT) could transform the passenger experience and generate more airport revenue. It’s only a matter of time until the majority of airports around the world are considered smart.
The climate crisis is becoming a top concern for major companies, consumers, and governments. In the United States, it’s reported that around 29% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from transportation alone. Sustainability is a critical focus for many companies operating in the aviation industry.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and its members have committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Here are the ways they will achieve this ambitious goal:
- Using sustainable aviation fuel made from renewable biomass
- Offsetting carbon emissions
- Employing carbon capture technologies
Airlines and airports will focus on sustainability this year — for example, airports may implement paperless processes or use natural lighting. Additionally, the aviation industry as a whole can adopt renewable energy technologies for ground operations.
In some airports in the United States, passengers can skip the standard TSA security line by using self-service kiosks called Clear Plus. They belong to Clear Secure Inc., an identification services company. These kiosks perform biometric screenings to verify identity — in simple terms, the camera scans the irises and face.
The technology transforms the biometric data into encrypted code. Every time the passenger checks in for a flight at an airport with Clear Plus, the tech scans their irises and face and matches it to their unique encrypted code. The aviation industry and passengers will greatly benefit from this type of biometric technology.
Most industries are investing in or experimenting with blockchain technology, and aviation is no different. One of the main use cases for blockchain in aviation is in aircraft manufacturing.
Boeing recently partnered with Honeywell Aerospace so it could use the company’s blockchain technology-powered platform called GoDirect. Boeing can track and sell around $1 billion worth of extra plane parts with this platform. This is a major step for the industry, which typically uses paper certificates to conduct sales of individual aircraft parts.
Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI) capable of predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed to do so. Many industries already use ML, from marketing and retail to manufacturing and construction. There are many ways the aviation industry can leverage ML.
For example, the Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SEA) uses computer vision (CV) technology, which is considered ML, to monitor ground operations activities in and around a parked aircraft when it sits at a gate. More ML use cases will emerge as companies invest in this evolving technology.
Modern consumers are increasingly dependent on handheld devices, mostly smartphones, and tablets. Airline passengers now expect commercial flights to offer a decent internet connection, in-flight entertainment systems, interactive maps, and USB charging stations.
While seat-back entertainment systems were once popular among most airlines, they’re slowly being phased out because they are expensive to maintain. Some airlines will offer free Wi-Fi for their passengers, but it’s not very common and is usually only available for a limited time.
Another technology trend expected to continue is autonomous vehicles (AVs) or robots. AVs and autonomous delivery robots (ADRs) are emerging in various industries, including logistics and shipping. For example, Amazon, Uber Eats, Domino’s, and FedEx are experimenting with ADRs for last-mile and food delivery.
There are many ways ADRs or AVs could positively impact aviation. Passengers waiting for their flight could place a contactless order through their smartphone and have an ADR deliver a warm meal to their gate.
An autonomous luggage cart at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport can handle 450 bags per hour. At Fagernes Airport, an automated snow removal machine can clear hundreds of thousands of square feet of snow in an hour, easing people’s workloads and creating safer plane conditions.
All these tech trends will impact the future of the aviation industry. As more technologies emerge, it’s only a matter of time until airports and airlines adopt them to improve their operations and enhance the passenger experience.
In the next decade, passengers should expect to see some cool innovations in aviation. There will likely be changes in customer service and other critical airport operations. It’ll be interesting to see how the sector adopts the latest technologies to make air travel easier for its customers.