Digital Aviation: Big Data Takes Off But Flight is Just Beginning
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Aircraft sensors and onboard equipment gather large amounts of data. In addition to data storeable in a database, 'big data' includes volumes of unstructured data like engineering drawings, simulation files, engine telemetry, and old maintenance write-ups.
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25 July 2017 by Aviation Maintenance Mag
Big data technology is used to broadcast, aggregate, index and process a very large amount of data from many sources and with heterogeneous formats, explained Rodolpe Parisot, AFI KLM E&M's chief digital officer.
The volume and diversity challenges traditional computing. Yet modern algorithms, aided by digitization and the Internet of Things (IoT), can uncover patterns in what would otherwise be a meaningless jumble.
"Sufficiently sized data sets enable the generation of a statistical baseline for the detection of trends or exceedances," explained Uwe Zachau, head of industrial engineering with MTU Maintenance. Nevertheless big data is just getting off the ground: "We believe the majority of monitoring programs are in the diagnostic phase though the aim of all providers is, of course, to enter the predictive sphere as soon as possible."
Big data's largest effect on the aftermarket will be "tak[ing] MRO management and condition analytics into the predictive sphere," Zachau said. Thus MRO providers will not only be able to detect and rectify negative trends early on — as is the case today — but they also "be able to analyze larger patterns, better predict performance in the field, and, as a result, better plan shop visits, parts logistics, and fleet management."
The most valuable engine MRO market data is the data that is collected "directly from operations" – combined with maintenance records – "as this provides a context for any anomalies or patterns [that are] discovered," added Zachau. "The real 'art' is in the data analysis and producing the predictive models from this large pool of inputs."
Infrastructure investment is necessary, yet the larger issue at the moment is amassing the data to feed the databases and create enough data points to be able to establish patterns across engines, regions, and operations.
Data analytics helps to create customized, intelligent workscopes, said Lynn Fraga, senior director, aftermarket programs, for Pratt & Whitney (P&W). While these techniques improve visibility into the overall health of the fleet, however, "no two operators are the same [and] operators have different aircraft and engines, geographic routes, operational needs, and environmental conditions. Collecting fleet data helps maximize the customer's specific engine performance and time-on-wing while maintaining predictable MRO spend, Fraga said.
According to Parisot, AFI KLM E&M considers digital transformation and big data as a strategic move in its portfolio of services. The Franco-Dutch MRO sees these market trends as so powerful that it is transforming itself into "a fully data-driven organization," able to deliver the best digital services to its customers.
Aircraft sensors and onboard equipment gather up to a terabyte (1 TB ) of data during a flight...