The connected aircraft, enabled by satellite communications, has the potential to save airlines $15 billion annually in operational efficiencies and 21.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2035, according to first-of-its-kind research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in association with Inmarsat, the leading provider of global, mobile satellite communications.
Analysing current Iata data and primary research including industry interviews with airlines, regulatory agencies, developers and suppliers of aircraft equipment and software solutions, "Sky High Economics: Evaluating the Economic Benefits of Connected Airline Operations" examines a wide range of efficiencies enabled by the connected aircraft, and their associated benefits.
Global flight delays are estimated to cost the industry $123 bn each year, with weather responsible for nearly 70 pc of all delays
The efficiencies include fuel savings, a reduction in delays, innovations in maintenance processes, air traffic management enhancements, safety improvements and others. Based on current connected aircraft numbers, the research finds that together these efficiencies can generate up to a 1 per cent reduction in the $764 billion spent by airlines each year in operating costs worldwide. This equates to 20 per cent of the forecast global aviation industry net profit in 2018. As the adoption of connected aircraft is set to rise exponentially, this cost saving is expected to double, saving airlines up to $15 billion globally by 2035.
At present, the airline industry is experiencing a period of exceptional growth, but the forecast doubling of air traffic by 2035 will require a more efficient use of assets to reduce fuel and CO2 emissions, and increase airspace capacity while assuring safety. Optimising flight routes in real time, through IP-enabled communications that provide better weather information to the cockpit, yields fuel reduction
IMPACT ON TURNAROUND TIMES
Reducing turnaround times and preventing aircraft on ground (AOG) through predictive maintenance is a key priority for airlines; unplanned maintenance is responsible for approximately half of flight delays. Globally, airlines spent $62.1 billion in maintenance, repair and operations costs in 2016, a figure set to reach $90 billion by 2024. The connected aircraft utilises real time data to create a live electronic tech log, in which flight performance data is digitally integrated with maintenance suppliers, allowing airlines and advanced algorithms to identify any maintenance required before the aircraft arrives at its destination. This research forecasts that if such technology halved maintenance costs, it could deliver annual cost savings of $5.6 billion.
CUTTING FLIGHT DELAYS
Global flight delays are estimated to cost the industry $123 billion each year, with weather responsible for nearly 70 per cent of all delays. Through improved navigation capabilities, the connected aircraft’s ability to avoid adverse weather and hazardous conditions could deliver annual cost savings of $1.3 billion. In addition, crew scheduling is currently responsible for 3 per cent of delays; a 66 per cent reduction in such delays through enhanced connectivity could generate an additional $2.4 billion in annual savings. Where connectivity is fully utilised in disruption management to reduce the impact of delays, cancellations and diversions and enhance predictive maintenance, annual savings have potential to reach $11 billion.
As a result of enhanced satellite connectivity, significant change is underway in air traffic control (ATC) services. IP-enabled, secure real-time data exchange between aircraft and ATC is improving surveillance capabilities and reducing separation minima, allowing airspace to accommodate increasing passenger numbers and an increasing variety of aircraft. The benefits of migrating current radar-based systems to satellite-based navigation, automating aircraft position reporting and providing digital datalink communication between pilots and air traffic controllers could revolutionise air traffic management and save an estimated $3 billion annually.
Frederik van Essen, senior vice president, Market and Business Development, Inmarsat Aviation, commented, “This report demonstrates that the connected aircraft is a shrewd commercial decision; unrivalled access to real-time data is reducing airlines’ bottom-line operating costs while reducing emissions and improving safety. Not only that, enhanced connectivity is becoming an operational necessity as our skies become busier. With finite airspace available to accommodate increasing passenger numbers, airlines need to act now and consider the technology and infrastructure they need to future-proof their operations.”
Inmarsat is playing a key part in the digitisation of the aviation industry. Earlier this year, Inmarsat’s SB-S entered commercial service as the first and only global aviation broadband solution for operations and safety communications. SB-S allows airlines to utilise rich, real-time data to drive decision-making, improve operational efficiency and assure the highest levels of safety in the skies.
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