Nick Magliocchetti is Co-Founder and CEO of Waves – a new data-driven airline currently servicing the Channel Islands. Waves is predicated on the idea that technology and data can make flying cheaper, quicker, and more fuel-efficient. Waves holds an Aircraft Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for the Channel Islands, but will be expanding to serve the rest of the UK and Europe in 2018.
Flying is a great way to travel – allowing long distance travel in a matter of hours. And it is ripe for disruption – just like hotels and taxis, writes Nick Magliocchetti.
Taking Off: The Future of Aviation
So what technologies can we expect to see soon?
- Greener flying
Making Flying More Fuel-Efficient
Flying is one of the safest forms of transport, but it is also one of the least environmentally-friendly. It is no surprise, then, that there are billions of dollars of investment going into developing more fuel-efficient engines and flight solutions.
One such solution is to make use of the massive amounts of data available to understand customers’ travelling behaviours and adapting to better meet their needs. For example, data can help us understand which flights, on which days, at which time of year are the most and least popular. A suitable aircraft can then be chosen for the number of passengers, rather than using a larger, less efficient craft.
Electric and Hybrid Engines
As with cars, airplanes can be vastly more fuel-efficient, using fully-electric engines. Unlike cars, however, designing a fully-electric aircraft engine is incredibly complicated, so will take much longer to develop. In the meantime, we expect to see hybrid electric-fuel engines that lessen the reliance on conventional petrol.
- Getting you there quicker
Most of us have checked-in online or via our mobile devices, taking our boarding passes with us to the airport. This has reduced queue time and the reliance on check-in counter staff. In the future, we will be able to do the same for security.
For example, Waves uses a secure online security system to match and check identities before customers arrive at the airport. The process is approved by the BAA, so it matches the high security standards of typical commercial flights, yet drastically cuts down the time from arrival at an airport to take-off.
Automated Aircraft Inspections
Currently, aircraft need to be manually checked between each flight, which can take up to three hours, depending on the size of the aircraft. Fortunately, the future of flying will include automated aircraft checks conducted by robots and AI, which will speed-up the process considerably.
New Aircraft Design
New technology, such as 3D printing, will allow for new aircraft and engine design possibilities. For example, there are already teams working on 3D printing new thinner, low-drag wings from layered composite materials. This will allow for the return of supersonic flights, but with far higher safety standards.
“Cheshire has more than a dozen small airfields that might be utilised to save costs………”The Waves team.
- Getting you there safer
Augmented Reality Pilots
Currently in the works are helmets that include an augmented reality (AG) display. This will allow pilots to keep track of all the controls, alerts, signals, etc. more easily. It will also allow pilots to undergo more immersive training – visualising exactly how the aircraft will react in various circumstances.
AI Pilot Assistance
While we expect that there will always be some sort of pilot sitting at the controls, we will increasingly begin to see AI taking the controls. At first, AI will make small adjustments to the flight course and aircraft environment in order to maximise passenger comfort and safety. As the technology gets more advanced, AI will take more of the controls away from pilots, adapting to conditions with reactions far faster than any human.
- Using Data to Reduce Costs
We’ve already seen how data can improve fuel-efficiency, but it can also be used to anticipate customer numbers to reduce crew requirements and engine maintenance. For example, Waves uses data to anticipate passenger numbers, allocating the most suitable aircraft. This saves fuel and means ‘planes can be staffed appropriately.
- More Choice of Airports
Currently, most flights travel through main airport hubs. These are well-equipped, but they can also be expensive.
However, there are thousands of local airports and hangars dotted across every country which can often be used at much cheaper rates than the main transport hubs.
Cheshire has more than a dozen small airfields that might be utilised to save costs, share the burden, and help people get closer to where they want to be.
- Getting you exactly where you want to go
Airlines will begin partnering with other airlines, local taxi companies, and even boat taxis to get travellers exactly where they want to go.
These services will be linked seamlessly together; step-off one form of transport, straight onto another.
Not only will this make travelling quicker, it will be far easier and stress-free for travellers in remote regions to get from A to B.
Aviation is the future of travel. By no other means can you travel as far, as fast. With so many exciting future innovations looking likely for air travel, flying will be even faster, cheaper, safer and much more environmentally-friendly.
This is great news, particularly for people living in remote regions such as the Channel Islands, Shetland, the Western Isles and Orkney.