In a previous post, I referred to the song “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones as a way of recognising the aviation industry’s struggle during the pandemic and under unprecedented circumstances. Now, after a quiet period in aviation traffic, the European aviation industry is now slowly recovering, operating 67% more flights compared to 2019 levels1 and, in line with the most optimistic forecasts from Eurocontrol, it may to return to 2019 levels by 2024. Quoting the great Elvis Presley, it is now time for “a little less conversation and a little more action”.
A number of documents have been published to help safely restart the aviation industry. For airlines, IATA has created guidance material2 to assist aircraft operators meet the recovery demand. CANSO, the global voice of the air traffic management industry, has published guidelines to ensure the consistency of ATS services globally3. Furthermore, a recent report by EASA4, with the support of organizations such as Eurocontrol and FAA, has highlighted how aviation professionals may have lost some skills and knowledge due to lack of recent practice. These documents send a constructive message to ensure that the industry ramps up and stays safe.
While best practices can be adopted to mitigate human factors (e.g. skill degradation, proficiency decay), the positive impact of higher levels of automation has been largely overlooked, especially in relation to intelligent digital assistants who can help safely restore air traffic capacity and maintain efficiency of the system. Such digital assistants can be used as decision-support systems based on artificial intelligence techniques that can help tackle complex cognitive tasks. This, in turn, would reduce the need for continuous human intervention and allow air traffic control officers to focus on other, crucial points in the decision-making process.
We must challenge our mindsets and consider safety to not be purely human-centric. With a certain degree of technology, human-machine teaming can enhance human performance, safety, and, consequently, system efficiency.
Intelligent digital assistants have been the hot topic of aviation for many years; however, we must still integrate human-machine teaming into the adoption of these assistants, especially if we are to embrace AI in running operations. To this end, Innaxis, together with a team of machine learning engineers and aviation domain experts, is working to implement intelligent digital assistants in aviation, striving for a deeper understanding of the technology and processes that will ultimately facilitate the transition to AI operations.
Aviation professionals can use our current recovery from Covid-19 as an opportunity to view AI in a new light. Intelligent digital assistants can help safely restore air traffic volume and, in turn, help break stigmas against the idea of using AI in safety protocol. As automation rises in aviation, we hope to view more acceptance from society.
The pandemic is yet another sign to aviation professionals to embrace technology. Higher levels of automation can help us remain safe, resilient and competitive whilst improving system efficiency.
1. Eurocontrol COVID 19 Impact on Aviation
2. IATA, Safely restarting the aviation industry
3. CANSO, COVID-19: Ensuring Continuity of ATS Service Globally
4. EASA, Safety Issue Report