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Is the AI Revolution in Aviation Really Safe for Passengers?

Is the AI Revolution in Aviation Really Safe for Passengers?
Scott Dylan

Artificial intelligence is going to reshape the way we all travel. The only question is how long it will take for that to happen. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are investing some significant funds into creating smart technologies that can be used in every facet of air travel. This includes everything from what happens in the cockpit to how passengers place their drink orders from their seats. The reality is that the future is already here in many ways that passengers don’t realize. Automated systems have been commonplace in the world of commercial aviation for a few years. These systems are supposedly helping to take the pressure off of pilots, enhance efficiency and increase safety. What is the next big thing in smart aviation? Take a look at the ways artificial intelligence will be affecting your future flights.

Aircraft manufacturers and airlines are investing heavily in bringing machine learning to the mainstream. Systems that were originally developed for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been tweaked to work in commercial environments. For instance, Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) is now being used for traffic situational awareness by airline pilots. The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) is also being redeveloped to adjust controls based on flight conditions.

Airbus is one of the manufacturers at the forefront of developing artificial intelligence for use in commercial aviation. The company’s twin-engine A350 XWB was designed with 50,000 sensors and is capable of collecting multiple terabytes of data on a daily basis. The data that is collected can be used to make smarter decisions in the air.

The main motivation behind developing artificial intelligence for use in the airline world is to make flying safer. However, the public has reason to be wary when it comes to the dangers of handing off too much responsibility to automated systems too quickly. The recent Lion Air crash may be evidence of that. Early findings are revealing that autonomous systems could have played a role in causing the aircraft to go down during a high-risk situation.

It is believed that failed MCAS sensors contributed to the crash that took the lives of 189 people. That doesn’t sit well with passengers who are being told that airlines are raising prices in order to invest more heavily in high-tech features. The only hope that the aviation industry has for preventing another catastrophe like the Lion Air crash is to detect issues before planes depart from runways. Data would need to be used to detect precursors to failure. That is something passengers probably wouldn’t mind paying a little bit extra for. However, we aren’t fully there yet. The Lion Air crash is proof of that.

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