Introduction: Artificial Intelligence and Air Travel.
Artificial Intelligence and Air Travel: Air travel may have been limited for most people since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. But that does not mean that the industry has stood still. On the contrary, artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming a multitude of areas within the sector.
AI and air travel are becoming more closely linked every day, with AI disrupting and enhancing traditional operations. Starting from customer interaction during the booking process to intelligent loading of planes, autonomous flying, and predictive maintenance, technology is making its mark on air travel. Here is a closer look at the changes happening in the industry right now.
AI and Bookings
Artificial intelligence supports air travel bookings in different ways, including offering assistance during the booking process and setting a price.
From a customer-facing perspective, tools like chatbots might be the most visible form of artificial intelligence during the booking process. Whilst most airline customers in 2022 will be used to booking travel online, the pandemic has added complications and additional requirements. Even as many countries are opening their borders, requirements for entry and travel change regularly.
Keeping track of those changes can be demanding for customers. At the same time, it is rarely efficient for an airline to have countless customer service staff answer repetitive questions. This is where AI comes into its own. Chatbots can relieve the pressure on airline staff and create a better customer experience.
Behind the scenes, AI allows airlines to take advantage of dynamic pricing. Mature technology can review what prices customers were willing to pay for a specific flight and adjust it depending on seat availability, for example.
AI and Loading Planes
Predictive artificial intelligence software allows airlines to plan how much baggage to expect on a specific flight. For example, a flight that is frequently used by business travelers leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon will require less loading than a holiday charter.
With relatively basic data, AI can accurately predict the amount of time and effort required to load a plane. Moreover, loading an airplane is a fairly repetitive process. This type of process lends itself to automation.
Consider this: as soon as a customer’s baggage has been labeled, it can make its way to the plane. Barcode scanners placed alongside conveyor belts ensure that suitcases and bags are routed correctly. Airport or airline employees can spend their time concentrating on other aspects of their job.
AI and Route Planning
Optimizing flight routes has a direct impact on the customer experience an airline can deliver. Arriving on time and offering more competitive prices through lower operational costs are dependent on intelligent route planning.
AI can help by analyzing a variety of data and suggesting the most favorable route for a given flight. Potential criteria include expected weather conditions or congestion around major airports. Combining AI with machine learning capabilities allows the technology to draw its own conclusions. In time, the route planning predictions will become more accurate and result in fewer delays, reduced fuel use, and an overall improved customer experience.
AI and Autonomous Flying
Are flights likely to be taking off without a pilot soon? Not yet, is the answer to that question. However, safe autonomous flight driven by artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction. Several technology startups are developing unmanned airborne vehicles.
Source: YouTube | WSJ
At the same time, the world’s leading airplane manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, are working to integrate AI into their procedures. Airbus’ ATTOL project uses image recognition to complete fully automatic vision-based take-offs. Most readers will be familiar with the basis of the technology. Every time we identify ourselves online as a human and select all pictures depicting a certain object, we contribute to the improvement of image recognition software.
Boeing is utilizing AI in its defense branch, Phantom Works. Engineers are working on “teaching” unmanned aircraft how to share data and operate as a team. Experiments in 2020 were successful in combining the capabilities of five aircraft. The company is planning to apply the learnings to its civilian technology as well.
AI and Fuel Savings
Fuel costs account for approximately 10% of an airline’s costs. Plus, aviation has frequently been accused of being a major contributor to CO2 emissions worldwide.
AI can help in the industry’s quest to address both environmental and economic concerns. Artificial intelligence-based algorithms can analyze an incredible amount of data relating fuel consumption to aircraft type and loading, altitudes, and weather conditions.
Based on these analyses, AI is then able to determine the optimal amount of fuel needed for a flight to be as safe and efficient as possible. The benefits start right on the ground at the airport where airline personnel can optimize the time required for refueling.
Fuel savings can then be passed on to airline customers through the airline’s pricing strategy.
AI and Predictive Maintenance.
Aside from fuel costs, aircraft maintenance is another major factor in the profitable operation of airlines. Industry experts estimate that 30% of air travel delays are caused by unplanned maintenance.
Using intelligent technology can help minimize those delays and the costs associated with them. Rather than repairing an aircraft when something has failed unexpectedly, the goal is to recognize the failure before it causes bigger issues. At that time, maintenance can be scheduled, whilst another aircraft fills the slot.
Predictive maintenance based on artificial intelligence would see airplanes fitted with “health monitoring sensors.” Those sensors send notifications and updates to technicians, allowing them to spot problems early and schedule maintenance without delays and disruption.
AI and Better Aircraft
The main advantage AI has over human intelligence is its capacity to analyze more data in less time. When it comes to designing and building better aircraft, artificial intelligence can find suitable solutions from a range of options faster than humans can.
Data analysis and machine learning allow AI-based software to cut the time needed to address specific problems. In addition, computers can see possible answers to design questions that humans have not considered yet.
AI and Aircraft Design
Artificial intelligence may not yet be designing entire airplanes, but the technology is perhaps not as far away from that point as we think. AI is already behind some of the latest designs for cabin partitions in passenger aircraft. The resulting partitions are both lighter and stronger.
The computer will slowly replace the work of designers. In the current state, it is helping designers find a suitable solution more quickly by selecting options that would fulfill the requirements of a specific part. Rather than waiting to be inspired, designers receive several possible solutions to their problem which they can develop further.
AI also allows designers to predict how different material choices would influence the look and functionality of their design. These predictions are an excellent time-saver.
Eventually AI will take over the design of air crafts and make it very efficient.
Conclusion: Artificial Intelligence and Air Travel
Whilst autonomous flight remains a topic for the future, artificial intelligence is having an impact on air travel and aviation. Facilitating bookings and adjusting prices dynamically are two of the areas where airlines can benefit.
AI also has the potential to generate substantial cost savings for airlines through increased fuel efficiency and minimized unplanned maintenance. After several tough years for the industry, artificial intelligence technology will be instrumental in helping air travel bounce back.