Helen Wen, vice president of sales and marketing (Asia Pacific) avionics, at Collins Aerospace, shares why aviation players need to move away from legacy systems and embrace the digital transformation wave and innovation to deal with the changing demands of the industry.
Some 7.2 billion passengers will travel in 2035, a near doubling of the 3.8 billion air travellers in 2016, according to the latest edition of the 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Asia-Pacific is set to be the biggest driver of that demand, as it is expected to account for more than half of the new passengers over the next two decades. China will displace the US as the world’s largest aviation market around 2024, while India will displace the UK for third place in 2025. Indonesia and Japan will be ranked 5th and 7th, respectively.
Growth will also be increasingly driven within developing markets. Over the past decade, the developing world’s share of total passenger traffic has risen from 24 per cent to nearly 40 per cent, and this trend is set to continue.
Efficiencies and innovation as the new normal towards scale
As air travel continues to grow, existing infrastructures and processes are being put to the test. This shift in growths also means that Asia-Pacific needs increased capabilities to not only support but ride its aviation boom.
Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services play a fundamental role in sustaining airline fleets, with an increased emphasis on efficiencies and innovation, to manage record volumes of MRO demand from the region. Increasingly connected aircraft have the capability to share extensive informatics in operations to enhance performance, safety functions, and improve in-flight services.
Additionally, route optimisation and passenger processing demand intelligence to respond to the high frequency of travel. Innovative use of biometrics is already streamlining and speeding up passenger processing. Beyond the end-user convenience, software-driven and scalable solutions are enabling airports and airlines to implement and grow their biometric capabilities at various touchpoints, to consistently build efficiencies into the boarding process to sustain passenger satisfaction.
The promise of digital transformation in the face of a rapidly-changing landscape
What the aviation industry really needs is the agility to manage growing and rapidly changing demands in the long run. And that calls for an industry-wide transformation.
Digital transformation is already fostering innovative business models and challenging legacy businesses across different industries. At the same time, it is revolutionising operations, enabling opportunities and new revenue streams for industry players that are willing to adapt and rise to the change.
In the aviation industry, we are witnessing the growing potential for intelligent technologies to enhance safety, generate insights, and foster breakthroughs in efficiencies and innovation to create immense value and improve overall passenger experiences. Intelligent systems and autonomous advances have been introduced into the commercial aviation sector, with systems delivering solutions that reduce pilot workload, enhance situational awareness and assist with smarter, timelier decision-making.
But this transformation is not without challenge. The aviation industry is one of the most complex ecosystems to navigate, given the broad range of entities and expertise, from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) that design and produce aircraft, to small software vendors with the analytical know-how to aid discovery of new operational insights.
A collective effort in transforming processes in aviation
Such complexity calls for a collective effort towards embracing a new model of relationships in the industry, defined by ecosystem-wide innovation driven by connectivity, shared data, intelligent systems, and end-to-end process transformation.
But industry players are often hardwired in systems and technology investments of the past, due to reasons not limiting to the inability to transition in the face of pressing daily demand, investment and cost hurdles, and risk-adversity. Over-reliance on legacy systems remains one of the biggest challenges in the digital transformation journey to date.
For the aviation industry to truly transform, it needs industry leadership in converging capabilities, while seeding new paths for technology and solutions to add more value.
Planning for a sustainable future
As the world shifts towards being increasingly environmentally conscious with governments and corporates outlining strong sustainability goals, it is also imperative that the aviation industry aligns its efficiencies and growth with the global movement.
Investments in next-generation electric and hybrid-electric systems for use on current and emerging commercial and military platforms is a critical first step in sustainably growing the industry, against a backdrop of a more electric world.
Revolutionising the aviation industry
As we look at the route ahead, there are clearly challenges in transforming the aviation industry.
The industry calls for a connected commercial aviation ecosystem that links partners and touchpoints with powerful data for unprecedented insights. And more electric innovations that will significantly increase power system density, laying the groundwork to fly a hybrid-electric regional passenger aircraft by 2020.
Through advanced flight control, data link and guidance technologies, there is an opportunity to enhance the integration and safety of manned and unmanned flight, and make technologies safer, more secure and more informed – an intelligent approach to redefining aerospace.
And embracing technology and innovation, and collaboration at this juncture is critical to powering the future of aviation for Asia-Pacific and the world.