Big data in aviation management: revolutionizing decision-making

Image by Transport and Telecommunication Institute

When it comes to the term ‘Big Data’, there are various interpretations and applications. Put simply, big data describes large, difficult to manage volumes of information, both structured and unstructured, that grow at ever-increasing rates.

In the world of big data, experts refer to the ‘three v’s’ – volume, velocity and variety. A lot of companies, not least the social media giants, use big data to make money through advertising, including targeted ads and campaigns. So, it’s not just the set of data or the amount of information that matters, it’s what businesses do with it.

In aviation, big data is vital. Organisations collect and produce unprecedented amounts of data every second. For example, MRO and OEM firms collect terabytes of data from on-board aircraft sensors for every flight while airports and airlines serve millions of passengers and store rich data on their behaviour. Air traffic management companies utilize real-time data from multiple sources such as radar, satellites, weather stations, and aircraft sensors.

Dmitry Pavluyk is a researcher and head of the Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence research cluster, and professor and study programme director at the Transport and Telecommunication Institute (TSI) in Latvia. TSI offers a range of study programmes, including Bachelor’s and Master’s double degree programmes in Computer Science with specialization in Artificial Intelligence, as well as double degree programme in Aviation Management.

Dmitry Pavlyuk. Image by Transport and Telecommunication Institute

Pavluyk says that an enormous volume of data which comes in real-time is essential for businesses, and the key problem is the utilization of this gold mine for reaching business goals.

“Big data solutions are becoming the operational ‘must-have’ tool for regular business operations,” explains Pavluyk. “Analysis and enhancement of customer experience, cost optimization, new product development and advertisement. In addition to these common business problems, there are a set of big data applications, specific to the aviation industry: predictive maintenance, safety control and risk mitigation, air flight routing and schedule optimization.”

Harnessing real-time data for enhanced safety

According to Thales, big data plays an integral role in improving aviation safety.  For instance, the use of data from embedded systems is contributing to a shift towards a predictive approach to carrier maintenance. The French aerospace company reports that predictive algorithms allow the anticipation of wear and tear on various parts. The efficient management of big data also helps businesses like Thales to implement effective protection against cyberattacks. Furthermore, data gathered from differing formats including logs and technical data can be used to enhance flight safety, particularly when information recovery from the traditional black box is challenging after an aviation accident.

Passenger experience

But it’s not just safety where big data is proving to be an important resource: airports and airlines are using it to improve passenger experience. Thanks to big data, operational processes have been made more efficient including check-in, bag loading, and flight dispatch. Some big data models can be used to tag passengers based on their behavior, habits, preferences, and travel plans thereby fast-tracking them and offering personalized services.  

EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, points to Airport Collaborative Decision-Making (A-CDM) and its core aim of strengthening the resilience of airport operations. Now implemented in 32 airports across Europe, it allows (and encourages) the exchange of accurate and timely information.

Optimizing analytics

Pavluyk says that big data solutions have the potential to go beyond improving existing business operations and can open doors to new insights and innovative product development.

“In my opinion, one of the most sought-after and emerging skills for modern business professionals is research aptitude – the ability to generate novel ideas and hypotheses and validate them using available big data. By leveraging big data effectively, businesses can uncover hidden opportunities, drive innovation, and gain a competitive advantage in today’s dynamic marketplace.”

Looking ahead, Pavluyk believes that while big data solutions offer numerous benefits to the aviation industry, there are several industry-specific challenges which need to be solved over the next five years, most notably the multiple regulatory and legal challenges.

“The aviation industry is highly conservative and operates under strict regulations and legal frameworks. Making big data solutions compliant with data regulations and ensuring data ownership rights will stimulate the adoption of big data solutions by the aviation industry.

“The other issue is data quality and integration. Big data solutions heavily rely on the quality of the underlying data, which are owned by different stakeholders – OEM and MRO companies, airports, airlines, air traffic operators, and many others. Clear quality and privacy-preserving protocols for data exchanges and usage are highly demanded.”

Finally, Pavluyk highlights the expertise gap. “The aviation industry will require professionals with advanced skills in research, data engineering, data analytics, and machine learning to effectively leverage big data solutions. Addressing this challenge is no simple task, especially considering the scarcity of skilled professionals in the global labour market. However, finding a solution to this issue will be instrumental in securing sustainable competitive advantages for aviation companies.”

Anyone seeking to deepen their knowledge of management in aviation industry businesses, as well as furthering their career, could consider the qualifications offered by TSI. For example, the double degree in Aviation Management has been designed in collaboration with the University of the West of England (UWE) and, after a year and a half or two years of study, provides a unique opportunity to obtain degrees from both universities. The course enables students to broaden their professional networks, enjoy hands-on experience via internships at airports and with various aviation firms, and allows access to the valuable resources of both educational institutions.

The Double Degree in Aviation Management is the Master’s study programme and is beneficial for graduates from the perspective of in-demand skillsets and networking. However, for those interested in Data Analytics & Artificial Intelligence or Management of Information Systems, Transport and Logistics, as well as other study opportunities (including distance learning), you can learn more about what’s on offer at TSI by following this link:

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