With a little help from blockchain, predictive maintenance is set to reach new heights – but the data upsurge is not without its challenges, writes Chris Knight
Newspaper columns the world over regularly overflow with reports of the power of nascent technology. And as technology touches every aspect of our lives, so it pervades the aviation sector as well.
In fact, the industry has experienced an exponential increase in data transmission over recent years, and, consequently, a corresponding leap in the ability to monitor, record, stream and analyse in-flight data. For example, whereas the Airbus A320 originally generated around 400 parameters (pieces) of data per flight, the figure is 400,000 parameters for the most recent A350.
Furthermore, the scale – and scope – of this growth is set to continue: technologically advanced aircraft are expected to represent 50 percent of the global fleet within ten years, a dramatic jump from approximately 10 percent currently. In turn, the possibilities will become ever greater for ‘predictive maintenance’ – the ability for operators to utilise data to detect early, and even pre-empt, aircraft maintenance issues, thereby saving time and potentially vast sums of money.
Alongside this, blockchain’s application to aircraft maintenance could present an additional paradigm shift for the entire aviation sector.
Representing a USD $9 billion (£6.9 billion) annual spend for the four largest US airlines alone, aircraft maintenance accounts for a huge proportion of operator expenditure. Minimising these costs is key, and herein lies the desirability of predictive maintenance – airlines can use live data to predict when issues may arise, streamlining the maintenance process and minimising time on-ground.
Harnessing the ever-increasing amounts of information created mid-flight (there are 8,000 – 10,0000 sensors in each wing of the most modern aircraft) allows operators to determine when parts need to be replaced and notify engineers to start arranging the necessary substitutes or repairs hours before landing.