Earlier this month, Rolls-Royce introduced its vision for the IntelligentEngine which can ‘think’, ‘feel’ and heal itself. We talked to Rolls-Royce’s Richard Goodhead to find out more about the cutting-edge engines we could be seeing soon.

Goodhead said: “The IntelligentEngine is where three things come together. The product, the service and digital all come together in a way that it’s really hard to de-link them in any way at all. What that gives you is an engine that becomes increasingly connected, contextually aware and comprehending.”

He added: And by that what we mean is it’s connected not only to our infrastructure and that of the airline, but all the engines in the fleet, and it’s learning from all the engines’ experience.”

He said this contextual awareness is key, noting: “Rather than simply understanding what we have for many years, which is what’s going on inside the engine, we are now able to understand more about how the engines operate and what environment it’s in, what’s the weather doing, what the air traffic control constraints may have been on the engine, and how it’s being used.”

Engine, heal thyself

Rolls-Royce envisions an engine that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand more about its own state and what it “thinks and feels,” Goodhead said.

“Ultimately we see this as being where the engine can actually start to understand what it needs and heal itself with potentially no human intervention.”

On how airlines will benefit from this, Goodhead explained: “There are two key things that we’re seeking to deliver to our airlines in terms of increased value. One is availability of the asset, making sure that when they need it to do what it needs to do, it does it all the time. It’s always in the air.

“Secondly, it’s about making it as efficient as possible. Obviously in a transition to a low-carbon economy, what we need to do is minimise the amount of fuel burned. Not only is that environmentally good, but obviously it’s good for the economics of the airline.”

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