Connected aircraft opportunity for Inmarsat certified channel partners using SDK

By Arun Shankar   20 July, 2018
Connected aircraft opportunity for Inmarsat certified channel partners using SDK

Frederik van Essen, Senior Vice President, Market and Business Development, Inmarsat Aviation.

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. SB-S delivers revolutionary new capabilities to the flight deck through the Electronic Flight Bag, from real-time weather reports to inflight aircraft health and performance monitoring.

“Specialist partners have a role to play in developing the capabilities of the connected aircraft. Inmarsat’s SB-S, which entered commercial service earlier this year, is the only global, secure, broadband platform for operations and safety communications. SB-S enables a range of value-added third party systems and applications, from real-time weather charts to flight optimisation and crew workload reduction. The range of applications available to airline customers continues to grow through Inmarsat’s Certified Application Provider Programme, part of a wider Inmarsat initiative to bring third-party applications to the network. We recognise the value of partners in broadening and enhancing the services we offer to our customers, and work with a growing range of application providers,” explains Frederik van Essen, Senior Vice President, Market and Business Development, Inmarsat Aviation.

Inmarsat’s Certified Application Provider Programme aims to facilitate these new connected applications and is currently open to application providers and developers, with an SDK and two-step certification process that tests and optimises connected applications to make the most of the SB-S platform.

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 CO2 emissions by 2035, according to research from the London School of Economics and Political Science in association with Inmarsat.

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 range of efficiencies enabled by connected aircraft.

These 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% reduction in the $764 billion spent by airlines each year in operating costs worldwide . This equates to 20% of the forecast global aviation industry net profit in 2018, $38.4 billion.  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.

Optimising flight routes in real time, through IP-enabled communications that provide better weather information to the cockpit, yields an estimated 1% fuel reduction per flight. This equates to 3.39 billion litres of fuel, 8.3 million tonnes of CO2 and $1.3 billion in fuel costs annually .

Reducing turnaround times and preventing aircraft on ground 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 log, in which flight performance data is digitally integrated with maintenance suppliers. This allows identification of any maintenance required before the aircraft arrives at its destination. This technology could deliver annual cost savings of $5.6 billion.

Global flight delays are estimated to cost the industry $123 billion each year, with weather responsible for nearly 70% 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.

Crew scheduling is responsible for 3% of delays. A 66% reduction in such delays through enhanced connectivity could generate an additional $2.4 billion in annual savings. Where connectivity is fully utilised annual savings have potential to reach $11 billion.

As a result of enhanced satellite connectivity, significant change is underway in air traffic control services. IP-enabled, secure real-time data exchange between aircraft and air traffic control 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.

Dr Alexander Grous, Department of Media and Communications, LSE and author of Sky High Economics said: “The forecast doubling of aircraft in the skies by 2035 will create both challenges and opportunities for the global aviation industry. IP-enabled aircraft are an essential step in facilitating growing demand for air travel, while meeting vital safety requirements.”

“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,” says van Essen.

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