• Laura Gambell

What does digitalization look like for an FBO in Business Aviation?

Image credit: Fanjianhua - Freepik.com

As a one-stop service facility for business aviation we have many different touch points that will be affected by the digital revolution.

In spirit of the New Year and our 50th anniversary, I wanted to write about a vision into the potential future for each of our services.

Aircraft maintenance of the future - FBO renovations, drones and 3D printers

It’s predicted that, as soon as 2020, automated aircraft will be taking to the skies creating a demand for more and more engineers with expertise in Artificially Intelligent (AI) machines and pilotless aircraft systems.

Fixed Base Operators (FBO) will need to be redesigned to integrate electronic charging services, and facilities that are located close to major smart cities could also expand to accommodate multi-model aircraft that will be used on the road and in the sky.

Drones will certainly be an extension of the maintenance team and will be a beneficial asset in situations such as off-site breakdowns. The engineer will be able to send the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to the problem and remotely fix it. This would save the time and money of physically sending the engineer off-site and the passenger would be able to continue their journey in a record time.

3D printing for aircraft will be utilized for repairs and fixes. Instead of waiting days or even weeks for certain aircraft parts to be delivered, engineers will simply download and print the part on-site by downloading the file from the aircraft manufacturer.

Avionics systems - Pilotless planes and AR technology

Highly intelligent systems will soon be flying planes on their own. Pilotless flight systems will allow aircraft to fly and land safely in weather conditions that were never considered in a pre-digital era.

Consumer demands for high-tech interior displays, connectivity and cloud-based technology mean that Internet of Things (IoT) technology will extend far beyond the cockpit. Technology will include digital, interactive cabin walls and Augmented Reality areas that allow the business passenger to optimize the time they spend in the air like never before.

Ground-handling services - AI assistance and improved parking

Passengers are always looking to save time, so imagine the possibilities of a robot assistant that would not only be able to communicate with air traffic control about the aircraft landing, but then also receive real-time traffic alerts from the limo driver that is scheduled to pick the passenger up.

The handling agents could have access to the passenger’s itinerary and work with IoT systems to rearrange or reorganize their schedule as necessary. If there is a delay on route, alternative routes can be organized without the passenger even being aware of an issue.

There will also be a new AI parking system that can optimise hangar and apron parking space. It will effectively pack in as many aircraft as possible making last-minute arrivals and departures much easier to approve and handle.

Quality and Aircraft Management - Customer service made more efficient

Where in the present day, aircraft management consists of a lot of paperwork and lengthy checks, artificial intelligence and digitalization of records are going to help make the process much faster for our clients.

With the help of administrative AI assistants, our continuing aircraft worthiness managers will no longer have to worry about paperwork and disconnected communications but will instead have more time to communicate with the aircraft owners and offer help for special circumstances.

This will also extend to quality and assurance checks where we will have a new wave of regulations and certifications. The processes will be faster and easier to manage with digitalization of records and automated quality checks.

Some charter companies are already releasing statements that they will accept payment from the top three cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Etherium and Litecoin. It wont be long before blockchain technology will be applied to customer transactions and aircraft records in handling departments too.

Risks and undiscovered terrain

While I think the digital revolution will have many advantages to make businesses more efficient and services more personalised, it will also come with a set of risks and uncertainties.

Flights without pilots may eliminate the risks of rogue pilots or human error but it’s yet to be determined what will happen if a fully pilotless flight malfunctions or is hacked by terrorists. Will there be a team of ground pilots ready to deploy a backup or will other emergency measures kick in?

Additionally, in Business Aviation high profile business people and public figures are the center of our interactions on a daily basis. If we begin to handle a lot of sensitive information across a huge IoT cloud, extra security measures will be required to reduce the risk of smart devices being used as smart weapons.

I'm looking forward to seeing how many of these predictions will get closer to reality in 2018 and I wonder if any new technologies will emerge and promise to disrupt industries of the future.

What do you think about our visions of the future and risks that come with it?

And how long do you think it will take before the aviation industry ‘goes digital’?

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