The Role of Artificial Intelligence in the Aviation Industry

The aviation industry, especially the commercial aviation sector, is constantly striving to improve both the way it works and its customer satisfaction. To that end, it has begun using artificial intelligence. Though AI in the aviation industry is still in the nascent stage, some progress has been made already as certain leading carriers invest in AI. To start with, certain use uses are being implemented such as facial recognition, baggage check-in, customer queries and answers, aircraft fuel optimization and factory operations optimization. But AI can potentially go far beyond the current use cases. To make a long story short, AI can redefine how the aviation industry goes about its work. (To learn more about AI in business, check out 5 Ways Companies May Want to Consider Using AI.)

The Context

The global aviation industry has been growing exponentially. Take the example of the U.S. commercial aviation industry: In the next two decades, passenger count is expected to double. In 2016, the U.S. commercial aviation industry generated an operating revenue of $168.2 billion. This is an opportunity for exponential growth which needs to be handled well. The aviation industry needs to move beyond its present ways of working and find better ways to optimize resources, improve customer satisfaction and safety records, control costs and be more responsible environmentally. Data is key to unlocking the potential, and the aviation industry must leverage AI. So, while both the business case and context of AI in the aviation industry is set, we need to discuss the use cases being implemented currently.

AI Use Cases in Aviation

As already stated, AI in aviation is in the nascent stage, but some use cases are already being implemented by some major U.S. carriers. These use cases are described below.

Passenger Identification

The idea is to have machines perform end-to-end passenger identification and check-in at the airport. Delta Airlines has been testing this process. Delta has been keen on using AI for some time, as is evident in its initiatives such as ticketing kiosks and check-in via the Fly Delta mobile app. In May 2017, Delta announced it was going to invest $600,000 in four automated self-service bag checking kiosks, including one that will also have facial recognition technology. The experiment is being carried out at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. According to Delta, previous experiments have helped streamline customer flow at the airport and improve customer satisfaction scores. According to the Delta annual report:

We are dependent on technology initiatives to provide customer service and operational effectiveness in order to compete in the current business environment. For example, we have made and continue to make significant investments in, mobile device applications, check-in kiosks, customer service applications, airport information displays and related initiatives, including security for these initiatives.

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