Sunset view of airplane on airport runway under dramatic sky in Hobart,Tasmania, Australia. Aviation technology and world travel concept.

It’s been 108 years since the Sperry Corporation demonstrated the first successful autopilot capability in France. Since then, we’ve made leaps and bounds through many technological advances in aviation to break the sound barrier, reach hypersonic speeds, and fly with solar power. The aviation sector continues to grow fast and will continue to grow, with recent estimates suggesting that demand for air transport will increase by an average of 4.3% annually over the next 20 years. What can be done to keep up with growth and provide passengers with a safer and more extraordinary experience?

Like the autopilot allowed “man and machine” cooperation, intelligent automation can accelerate advances in airlines, airports, and aviation to further streamline capabilities and provide enhanced customer service and flight planning optimization.

Learn more from the following list of advances the aviation industry can make today with intelligent automation.

The Top 4 Intelligent Automation Advances for Airlines, Airports and Aviation

Invoice Processing

Airlines partner with a variety of international travel agencies and vendors to sell airline tickets and offer passenger programs to get us from point A to point B and beyond. The invoices airlines receive come from many international and domestic suppliers in various formats, and processing the volume of these invoices manually, without error, takes too much time and effort.

Airlines are seeing great success in automating the receipt, processing, approval, and logging of their invoices. Invoice processing automation can also be configured to normalize unstructured data.

A Norwegian airport operator only had 80 staff members and needed a way to process more invoices with the same number of people. By leveraging automation, they worked through 100,000 invoices annually, gaining 90% efficiency, equaling three additional full-time employees.

Customer Service

In 2020, U.S. airlines received 102,550 complaints, a 568% increase from 2019. COVID, labor shortages, and scheduling contributed to this astronomical rise, and the airlines needed a way to sort, categorize, and address those grievances.

Flight attendant assisting male traveler in doing the self check-in using a machine at the airport terminal. Passenger at self service check in machine with airport female staff.

Airlines and airports can use intelligent automation, natural language processing (NLP), and optical character recognition (OCR) to read complaints and classify them by type and priority. Based on categorization, the issue can be routed to the appropriate customer service staff member, and a ticket can be opened for tracking and customer satisfaction follow-up.

Lufthansa uses NLP, intelligent automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) to better understand the intent and context of complaints and to sort and route complaints to the correct department for processing.

Air Traffic Congestion

The movie “Pushing Tin” shows us that air traffic controllers and their support systems can run up against some severely difficult decisions and scenarios. More seamless and efficient streamlining of the movement of airplanes can help alleviate some of these difficulties.

Heathrow Airport uses machine learning and robotics process automation (RPA) to share flight data for each airplane in real time to calculate the most efficient distance that each must maintain prior to landing on the runway. This increases the number of aircraft that can land and minimizes the chance of collisions during unseen events such as strong headwinds.

Simulation screen showing various flights for transportation and passengers.

To go beyond what is done at Heathrow, artificial intelligence and machine learning can integrate with the Future Air Traffic Management Concepts Evaluation Tool (FACET) data to overlay unit demands, capacities, weather, and ATC staffing with predictive modeling of delays and optimization to distribute takeoffs, landings, and ground holds. This creates an optimal utilization of runway, ground, and air space. Intelligent automation can prescribe actions to coordinate or instantaneously gather data for further analysis.

Predictive Maintenance for Aircraft

“Seeing is believing” is a very human saying. When it comes to aircraft maintenance, advances in technology could limit the need for detailed borescope inspections. With the Internet of things (IoT) sensor data and maintenance logs, we can use sound at levels beyond human hearing to predict maintenance needs in advance.

The predictive maintenance (PdM) market size is projected to reach $26.58B by 2028 from $5.31B in 2021.

Boeing and Airbus launched predictive maintenance tools in 2017. Collins Aerospace established its predictive maintenance tool that shows a 30% decrease in potential delays and cancellations related to components and systems monitored on the Boeing 777 fleet. Intelligent automation is the technology that consolidates the sensor data, analyzes and reports its findings, and schedules the needed maintenance.

The Future of Aviation

Airlines, airports, and aviation can greatly benefit from the value provided by intelligent automation and advanced technology. We can easily go beyond the top use cases listed in this article and dive into cabin crew scheduling, pilot support, or irregular operations handling. Despite obstacles due to the sheer size and magnitude of the global aviation economy, a fully AI-enabled future in aviation is possible, and it starts with intelligent automation. Where are you in your automation journey?

About Main Digital

Main Digital is a consulting firm focused on digital transformation services. We empower people to create new possibilities by reimagining business processes to leverage intelligent technologies. Our Main () MethodSM engagement framework includes Intelligent Automation, Agile Product Management, and Total Experience best practices to deliver scalable solutions. Main Digital is proud to be a Certified Women-Owned Small Business and a Washington Business Journal Best Places to Work company.

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