Ahead of the Global Urban Air Summit, FINN talks to Ali Husain, Chief Software Architect, SkyGrid.

At the inaugural Global Urban Air Summit (GUAS) next month (September 3-4, Farnborough), Ali Husain, Chief Software Architect, SkyGrid, will deliver a presentation entitled Blockchain in Aviation.

Here, he talks to FINN about urban air mobility (UAM) and the role of distributed ledger technology.

Sarah Wray (SW): Please tell us about SkyGrid and your work there

Ali Husain (AH): SkyGrid is the world’s first artificial intelligence and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)-powered aerial operating system that will enable the safe, secure and agile integration of next-generation transportation into the existing global airspace.

We aim to utilise a collection of industry-trusted data to provide the most advanced and comprehensive picture of the sky.

I serve as the Chief Software Architect at SkyGrid. My team and I are responsible for designing and implementing the SkyGrid platform in a scalable manner that will allow us to support our vision of urban air mobility.

SW: What role could blockchain play in making urban air mobility a reality?

AH: Some immediate advantages we see are through proving provenance, auditability and reduced operating costs, and that it’s a “trustless” system. What does this mean? With blockchain, we now have the ability to allow a full range of trusted and untrusted network participants to transact, given a set of previously agreed-upon smart contracts.

Since these transactions are transparent on the network, it helps auditors and regulators know exactly what is going on in the sky – past and present. And, all of this being automated means no paper records and almost zero transactional friction in the network.

So, it makes a lot of choppy, existing processes seamless and opens the opportunity for collaboration that hasn’t existed in the past.

SW: What progress has been made?

AH: Blockchain is slowly beginning to be adopted within the aviation industry. The biggest benefits seen thus far lie in transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to corrupt and manipulate the information. This is of particular benefit if different companies are working together and therefore using the same data – for example, in aircraft maintenance. Though only one of the many benefits of blockchain, it is a big step forward for the industry.

SW: What are the major challenges with tapping blockchain’s full benefits?

AH: The largest challenge to bringing distributed ledger technology into a very stable industry, such as aviation, is public and regulatory acceptance. However, that is the case with any new development in this business. We are asking aviation industry experts to trust that the benefits of blockchain will significantly outweigh the potential costs, and risk will be mitigated as much as possible.

SW: Who should come to your presentation, and why?

AH: Anyone who is interested in the subject of blockchain, contemplating the benefits vs risks, or looking to learn a little about what it is.