Taking off: The future of aviation
Nick Magliocchetti, CEO of Waves, looks at the technologies set to disrupt the aviation world in the near future.
With mainstay industries like taxis and hotels being disrupted, it seems time for improvements to the aviation industry. There is too much reliance on large airport hubs, too much inefficiency in fuel usage, and security queues are too long.
Fortunately, there are lots of businesses popping-up which aim to improve many aspects of the flying experience. Crowdfunding, in particular, is helping more of these innovative businesses get started, changing the way we fly forever.
So what technologies can we expect to see in the near future?
Most of us have checked in online or via our mobile devices, taking our boarding passes with us to the airport. This has reduced queue time and the reliance on check-in counter staff. In the future, we will be able to do the same for security.
For example, secure online security systems can match and check identities before customers arrive at the airport. The process is approved by the BAA, so it matches the high security standards of typical commercial flights, yet drastically cuts down the time from arrival at an airport to take-off.
- Aircraft inspections
Currently, aircraft need to be manually checked between each flight, which takes time. The future of flying will include automated aircraft checks conducted by robots and AI, which will speed-up the process considerably.
- Aircraft design
New technology, such as 3D printing, will allow for new aircraft and engine design possibilities. For example, there are already teams working on 3D printing new thinner, low-drag wings from layered composite materials. This will allow for the return of supersonic flights, but with far higher safety standards.
- Augmented reality pilots
Currently in the works are helmets that include an augmented reality (AG) display. This will allow pilots to keep track of all of the controls, alerts, signals, etc. more easily. It will also allow pilots to undergo more immersive training – visualising exactly how the aircraft will react in various circumstances.
- AI pilot assistance
While we expect that there will always be some sort of pilot sitting at the controls, we will increasingly begin to see AI taking the controls. At first, AI will make small adjustments to the flight course and aircraft environment in order to maximise passenger comfort and safety. As the technology gets more advanced, AI will take more of the controls away from pilots, adapting to conditions with reactions far faster than any human.
- Making flying more fuel-efficient
There are currently billions of dollars of investment going into developing more fuel-efficient engines and flight solutions. And data will be key to this.
For example, data can help us understand which flights, on which days, at which time of year are the most and least popular. A suitable aircraft can then be chosen for the number of passengers, rather than using a larger, less efficient craft.
- Electric and hybrid engines
Designing a fully-electric aircraft engine is incredibly complicated, but in the meantime, we expect to see hybrid electric-fuel engines that lessen the reliance on conventional petrol.
We’ve already seen how data can improve fuel-efficiency, but it can also be used to anticipate customer numbers in order to reduce crew requirements and engine maintenance. For example, data can be used to anticipate passenger numbers, allocating the most suitable aircraft. This saves fuel and means planes can be staffed appropriately.
Wider range of airports
Currently, most flights travel through main airport hubs, which are well-equipped, but can be expensive.
However, there are thousands of much cheaper local airports and hangars dotted across every country. Over time we’ll see these being used more frequently to save costs, share the burden, and help people get closer to where they actually want to be.
- Getting you exactly where you want to go
As well as flying to local airports, reducing onward travel time, airlines will begin partnering with other airlines, local taxi companies, and even boat taxis in order to get travellers exactly where they want to go. Passengers will be able to travel to the closest airport to their final destination, have a taxi pick them up, and then jump on a boat for those more remote locations.
These services will be linked seamlessly together; you’ll step-off one form of transport straight onto another. Not only will this make travelling quicker, it will be far easier and stress-free for travellers in remote regions to get from A to B.
The future of travel
Aviation is the future of travel. By no other means can you travel as far, as fast. With so many exciting future innovations looking likely for air travel, flying will be even faster, cheaper, safer and much more environmentally-friendly. This is great news, particularly for people living in remote regions.