How Artificial Intelligence impacts Air Transport

The first of a two-part series that considers the various ways artificial intelligence is used to facilitate air travel


First, what is Artificial Intelligence?

With its vital role in the technology industry, artificial intelligence (AI) simulates human intelligence processes using machines and computer systems to acquire information, reach conclusions and solve problems. AI, with its relevant technologies – Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented and Virtual Reality(AR/VR) – has become highly technical and specialized. Though building machines that initiate common sense, reasoning and problem-solving is a difficult and tedious task, the aviation industry is actively exploring and introducing AI technologies in all sectors.

How does artificial intelligence impact your travel?

  • Let’s say today is the first day of your vacation, and you will be flying somewhere new, your virtual assistant will have just notified you that, according to its calculation, your flight will depart at 14:45 and will arrive at 17:14. AI has done everything for you from the moment you booked your flight, it selected the best time, your preferred seat and customized meals, it even checked you in on your flight.
  • You arrive at the airport and your AI assistant suggests you to go to Gate B, because it has predicted it is the shortest path with the least congestion. In future airports, there will be very little waiting in lines, given that AI will predict the movements of each passenger, will optimize the flow and will allocate resources to meet changing passenger demands. There will no longer be a need to arrive at the airport two hours prior.
  • At the security check and border control, you won’t need to spend your time waiting in line. AI recognizes you and has confirmed your identity with biometric data, shared identification and face recognition. Since AI will report that there is no suspicious object detected, you will finish your security process within minutes.
  • Before you are get on the airplane, AI will finish the aircraft diagnosis, weather analysis, predictive risk management and flight planning. Decisions have been made based on real-time data sharing and the flight is good to depart. The accurate scheduled time is updated in real-time and shared to you directly. Welcome abroad.
  • The airplane does not need to wait on the tarmac for its turn to take off. All flight phases were previously coordinated to be as safe and efficient as possible. AI supports individual flights and the entire navigation system, so the traffic flow is dynamically optimized to provide the best route toward your destination. Potential risks have been identified and mitigated to avoid unexpected conflict.  If a situation arises, it is flexibly managed through AI to ensure a safe flight.
  • You arrive on time! It is exactly 17:14 and baggage claim, customs, immigration and quarantine are handled quickly and smoothly. AI captures new data from the journey and the chat-bot from the airline checks in with you to ensure you had a pleasant flight. The AI will use your response to improve its knowledge for better service.

It sounds a bit like Sci-Fi, but it isn’t actually. Although today we can’t be sure about all the ways AI will impact our everyday lives, what we do know is that it will continue to evolve. AI will bring the future of air transport economic benefits, efficiencies, flexibility and accessibility. There are so many areas in the industry where AI can provide support: efficient and flexible flights; air traffic management and airport operation; aircraft manufacturing and predictive maintenance; data-driven analysis and decision making support; airline revenue management and passenger support; security and facilitation; drone operations; training and so on. Some AI technologies have already surpassed research and development and are currently being introduced in existing operations.

Why does this industry need AI? Where are we heading? This will be considered in part two of this article.  

About the author

Hyuntae Jung is an intern in ICAO’s Air Navigation Bureau.  With skills in Air Traffic Management and Machine Learning, his ambition is to bridge the gap between academia, industry and regulatory agencies, so he pursuing his studies in futuristic operation concepts and artificial intelligence.