Aircraft Engine - Pixabay

How well does IoT fit in the aerospace industry? IoT is a natural fit according to Intelligent Aerospace. The aerospace industry depends on the use of sensors and handheld devices as well as connected electronics systems focused on network-centric data capture, communication and storage. These are prime enablers for IoT. In fact, aerospace organizations who were early IoT adopters are already reaping the benefits. They are developing new revenue streams, modernizing manufacturing and integrating global engineering workflows .

When these aerospace organizations combine Big Data with IoT, they can use data, software algorithms and electronics hardware to predict the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. For example, companies are exploiting patterns in data to identify risks and opportunities, enhance decision making, increase efficiency and save resources such as time and money. Aerospace engineers and executives see great promise in predictive analytics to transform operations and business models.

IoT Benefits Civil Aviation

In civil aviation, IoT is driving the use of the Aircraft Health Monitoring System (AHMS). AHMS brings vast improvements in the utilization and analysis of Big Data to enhance the availability, reliability and safety of aircraft. This in turn spurs the need to streamline aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) concerns. What is the impact? An Oliver Wyman MRO survey reported that 63 percent of respondents from leading airlines said AHMS increased reliability, with 35 percent also saying that it helped reduce maintenance costs.

IoT-enabled sensors measuring aircraft health and performance provide data related to speed, torque, vibrations and pressure that can pinpoint faults before they become a major problem. With this actionable information, more focused maintenance decisions can be made. This produces fewer cancellations, better operational and flight safety, less fuel consumption and enhanced passenger and crew experience.

To better appreciate the benefits of IoT, do a comparison of past and present. In the 1980s, the number of detectable faults on a Boeing 767 was 9,000. Now, intelligent sensors on a Boeing 787 can detect 45,000 faults. Furthermore, AHMS data from one aircraft where a fault was detected can be used to analyze an entire fleet.

The return on investment from AHMS in civil aviation is plain to see. The streamlining of maintenance operations and the faster reactions to faults could drastically reduce aircraft downtime for airlines that can cost up to $150,000 for just a couple hours. This is a major benefit as most airlines need every bit of revenue from each flight to stay out of the red.

Global MRO spend is anticipated to increase 46 percent by 2026 due to growing passenger numbers and aircraft fleets. Because of this, airlines are looking at the next step in asset management powered by IoT—predictive maintenance. With this, airlines can detect early signs of potential failure and rectify matters before it impacts service delivery.

IoT and predictive maintenance allow for better sharing of operational and maintenance experiences between airlines, aircraft operators and third-party MROs. This enables further cost reductions. By feeding collected data into an MRO solution, parts can be sourced and work schedules of engineers can be optimized thereby drastically reducing downtime.

Moving from Predicting to Prescribing

Predictive maintenance is an advantage, but it is not the end game. Prescriptive maintenance is the next step beyond predicting the status of an asset. Predictive analytics answer “what will happen, when and why?” questions. Prescriptive maintenance takes it further by allowing operators to predict what will happen and offer “what if” scenarios to show the impact of each possible event on operations.

IoT data is used to prescribe maintenance activities that will provide the best outcome (in terms of reliability and asset uptime). Allowing airlines to know what they could do better in the future is the main benefit. If they know an asset may fail, they want to know the most efficient way to reduce the failure rate while also rectifying problems in the most effective manner. Prescriptive maintenance can guide engineers with sequences of tasks to execute that isolate issues and help them determine the right time to do repairs with the appropriate tools. Ultimately, this reduces aircraft downtime.

Prescriptive maintenance is expected to revolutionize MRO. IDC predicts that 50 percent of all business analytics software will incorporate prescriptive capabilities by 2020. In the future, it won’t be engineers telling you how and when to repair an asset, because the asset itself will tell you what it needs. Although the technology is still in the early stages of adoption in civil aviation, keep an eye on it as it matures in 2017.

The aerospace industry provides a fertile environment for IoT. By embracing IoT, the industry can increase efficiency and performance. AHMS, MRO and prescriptive maintenance are prime examples.


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: Aircraft Engine, Pixabay)