The next generation aircraft will be on full display at the Paris Air Show 2015 and new capabilities driven by Big Data, analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) will take centre stage.
At the show this year, Bombardier plans to bring its CSeries jetliner that carries Pratt & Whitney’s Geared Turbo Fan (GTF) engine – an engine that comes with 5000 sensors that generate up to 10 GB of data per second. A single twin engine aircraft with an average of 12 hours flight-time can produce 844 TB of data. By the end of 2014, it was estimated that Facebook accumulates around 600 TB of data per day; but with an order book of over 3500 GTF engines, Pratt could potentially download zeta bytes of data, once all their engines are in the field. Therefore, It could come to pass that data generated by the aerospace industry alone could surpass the magnitude of the consumer internet.
Not only is more data created by industries than the consumer world, it’s more valuable; validating the sentiment that not all big data is created equal. Instead, the data created by industrial equipment such as jet engines, gas turbines and MRI machines has more potential business value on a size-adjusted basis than other types of big data being generated from the social web, consumer Internet and other sources.
Most of the engines today have less than 250 sensors. For someone who has built engine health monitoring solutions on big data platforms and demonstrated the reduction in the processing time from days to minutes, the new engines are a different ball game. These scales are beyond imagination and the kind of data storage and computing infrastructure required to handle such data is truly mind blowing.
Questions could be asked around why so much data needs to be collected. The GTF engine uses great swathes of data to build artificial intelligence and predict the demands of the engine in order to adjust thrust levels. As a result, GTF engines are demonstrating a reduction in fuel consumption by 10% to 15%, alongside impressive performance improvements in engine noise and emissions.
Increased revenue streams
Ultimately these Internet of Things Aircraft solutions lead to additional business for engine manufacturers, OEMs and even operators. Bombardier recently announced that it has signed an agreement with Pratt to use their eFAST Health Monitoring System on the CSeries aircraft. Bombardier can earn more revenue by receiving data on the real-time performance of their engines, so they can adjust the way planes are flown and deal with potential issues before they end up grounding airplanes for larger repairs.
The other leading players are also on the same path when it comes to embracing the Internet of Things. The new generation of GEnx engines started pumping 5 to 10 TB of data per day. GE expects to gain up to 40 per cent improvement in factory efficiencies by the application of IoT and Big Data Analytics. Rolls Royce collects similar amounts of data from 12,000 engines across the globe into its data centres.
While engines are leading the charge and embracing IoT and data generation, avionics systems are also catching up to this trend quickly. The traditional avionics systems transfer data up to a maximum of 12.5 KB/s whereas Boeing 787 Dreamliners and A350s are using Ethernet-based, next-generation aircraft data networks, called AFDX that allows up to 12.5 MB/s.This makes it quicker and easier to transmit the information from avionics systems to the maintenance teams on the ground about current flying conditions, as well as any faults that have occurred during the flight.
While avionics vendors have been slow to introduce big data applications, they are increasingly open to these proposals. The Internet of Things is also helping manufacturers manage their Pay by Hour engagement models and long term maintenance contracts at lower costs.
With rapid advancements being made in the Internet of Things in aircrafts combined with data analytics, it’s a truly exciting time to be working in the aerospace industry. Soon, thousands of sensors will be embedded in each aircraft, allowing data to be streamed down to the ground in real-time. And who knows, in time, this could drive the famous black box to simply become a backup device.