What are the latest technologies in aviation

Every third aviation company still has no digital strategy

  • Drones, 3D printing and big data are revolutionizing aviation
  • Bitkom presents study on the digitization of aviation at the ILA
  • Flying is becoming more comfortable for passengers thanks to smartphones and the Internet

The smartphone guides passengers to the gate at the airport, the aircraft independently determines the best route thanks to big data, and turbines are developed with the help of augmented reality glasses: digitization is changing aviation at all levels.

This is shown by a representative survey of 102 experts, which the digital association Bitkom commissioned on the occasion of the International Aviation Exhibition (ILA). Board members and managing directors of companies in the aviation industry were asked. According to the survey, the experts see digitization much more as an opportunity (95 percent) than as a risk (4 percent). However, they often do not yet approach digital change strategically: a third (32 percent) of the companies surveyed do not yet have a digital strategy. 41 percent have a central strategy for various aspects of digitization, 27 percent at least have partial strategies. “The digital transformation offers enormous opportunities for aviation. It makes flying more efficient, safer and more comfortable and the manufacture of aircraft or aircraft parts more cost-effective and flexible. In addition, new business models can be developed on the basis of innovative technologies such as big data analyzes or digital platforms, ”says Bitkom Managing Director Dr. Bernhard Rohleder. “In order to successfully shape the digital transformation, companies have to approach the change strategically. It can make sense to cooperate with large companies in the digital industry and startups. In addition to plenty of digital know-how, these often bring a breath of fresh air into traditional industries and can help get new projects off the ground. "

The Bitkom study examined how digitalization affects aviation, for example on the aspects of efficiency and safety, how it changes the customer journey, what role Industry 4.0 plays in aviation and what consequences these changes have for companies and have the industry.

Digitalization makes flying more comfortable

The customer journey in aviation - i.e. the travel experience from booking to arrival - is made significantly easier and more convenient overall thanks to digitalization, both on the ground and in the air. For example, 42 percent of those surveyed expect that the use of augmented reality for better orientation at the airport will be widespread in 2030, for example in the form of smart glasses that guide passengers to the gate. All respondents (100 percent) also say that fully automatic check-in with baggage machines will be widespread in the future. On board, it will be common for passengers to be able to use their own video or audio streaming service via the in-flight entertainment system (100 percent). Passengers will be able to make phone calls with their smartphones (98 percent) and surf the web via free internet access (96 percent). Most of the respondents (92 percent) also expect that passengers will be able to shop online on board in 2030 and pick up the purchased goods at the baggage carousel after landing. The possibility of tracking the whereabouts of one's own luggage in real time using a smartphone app will also be widespread in 2030, according to 91 percent of those surveyed. Rohleder: "In the future, air travel will be significantly less stressful than it is today, and it will be much easier to reconcile our individual interests and needs."

Digitization makes aviation more efficient, more resource-efficient and safer

Digitization also increases efficiency in aviation. 92 percent of those surveyed say that digital technologies help to meet the increasing demand in air traffic, for example by faster handling of passengers and baggage at the airport. In addition, in the future, aircraft will use digital technologies to independently choose the most efficient routes, as 94 percent of those surveyed say. This form of flight route optimization is usually carried out using software that evaluates current aircraft and weather data in real time. 62 percent of those surveyed are also of the opinion that digital technologies help reduce costs in aviation. For example, more efficient route planning is immediately noticeable in the kerosene consumption and thus in the balance sheet. Last but not least, the environment also benefits from the use of digital technologies in aviation: 56 percent of those surveyed say that the environmental impact of aviation can be reduced with the help of digital technologies. In addition to lower kerosene consumption, aircraft noise can also be reduced, for example. Innovative digital solutions also make flying safer, as 97 percent of those surveyed believe, for example through improved anti-collision systems.

The manufacture and maintenance of aircraft is getting smarter

Digital applications such as sensors, 3D printing or augmented reality will play a major role in aircraft production and maintenance in the future, as the Bitkom survey shows. Two thirds of those surveyed (64 percent) assume that production in aviation will be self-organized by means of digital technologies in 2030 and will be largely automated (Industry 4.0). The respondents agree that predictive maintenance of aircraft or aircraft parts with the help of digital technologies will be widespread in 2030 (98 percent). This means: thanks to information from sensors, maintenance work can be initiated in good time before an aircraft part fails, and the necessary spare parts can be procured automatically. 9 out of 10 respondents (91 percent) also expect that the electronic maintenance file, which always remains in the aircraft and allows a complete history, will be standard in 2030. According to 84 percent of the experts, data glasses, which provide aircraft mechanics with important information during maintenance, will be widespread in 2030.

Drones support public safety and the economy

Digital technologies also bring great advances in the manufacture of unmanned aeronautical objects, i.e. drones. The companies surveyed were asked to assess the purposes for which drones will be widely used in 2030. According to the experts, drones are used particularly intensively to provide support in public safety (100 percent), to examine areas that are difficult to access in the event of a disaster (99 percent) and to protect particularly sensitive systems or objects (95 percent). But drones will also play an important role in the economy in 2030. According to the survey, for example, they will be used in agriculture, for example to spread seeds or fertilizer (82 percent), or in retail to transport parcels (50 percent).

Companies see great opportunities for new digital business models

The digital transformation also opens up opportunities for new business models in aviation, with the experts seeing the greatest potential in data evaluation. With a data-based business model, a company could, for example, evaluate information on passenger behavior at airports and develop a navigation app based on this. 84 percent of those surveyed assume that such models will be used in 2030. According to many experts (80 percent), platform-based business models will also prevail. For example, air freight and available aircraft can be brought together via a digital platform. 78 percent of those surveyed assume that business models based on the principle of the share economy will be widespread, such as shared flight control centers. Around half (48 percent) also see potential for business models in which, for example, engines are remunerated based on usage.

Sticking to traditional business models inhibits innovation

However, the companies also see some obstacles to digital innovations: Two thirds of the experts are of the opinion that airlines are too attached to traditional business models (68 percent). Further internal barriers are a lack of capital for research and development (61 percent) and a lack of know-how in the management of aviation companies (34 percent). The respondents also see some obstacles to innovation at the political level: On the one hand, there is a lack of political support (73 percent), on the other hand, aviation is subject to excessive regulation (30 percent). The respondents also see the fact that passengers are skeptical of innovations in aviation (34 percent) as an obstacle to innovation.

Methodological note: The information is based on a representative survey that Bitkom Research carried out on behalf of the Bitkom digital association. 102 board members and managing directors of companies in the aviation industry were interviewed.