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Brains for Planes: Etihad Taps Big Data to Keep Planes on Time

Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ flag carrier, will tap the Industrial Internet and use sophisticated software to harvest and analyze gigabytes of data generated by hundreds of sensors working inside its planes. The tools will allow Etihad to monitor planes in real time, reduce fuel costs, manage plane maintenance, and even spot problems before they happen.

The Industrial Internet is a robust network of computers, machines and sensor that combines connectivity with advanced software analytics and low-cost sensing. It has the potential to save customers ranging from airlines to hospitals and oil companies billions by making them more efficient.

Werner Rothenbaecher, Etihad’s senior vice president for technical issues, said that “the advanced capabilities of the service” will help Etihad “to make rapid and informed decisions in relation to maintenance, while gaining technology leadership in diagnostics and prognostics health monitoring. With Taleris’ prognostics, we will be able to predict future faults and take proactive measures which result in less unscheduled disruptions to our global operations.”

GE Aviation and Accenture launched Taleris in 2012. The joint-venture provides airlines and cargo carriers with tools to predict, prevent and recover from operational disruptions like those caused by severe weather. “The aircraft is clearly the airline’s biggest and most important asset,” said Andy Heather, vice president of engineering at Taleris. “Traditionally, however, the aircraft has not been well connected into the airlines’ digital systems, operations and maintenance to the same degree, leaving significant potential value unrealized.”

Big data and the Industrial Internet will help keep Etihad Airways planes on time.

Heather said Taleris’s approach to optimizing aircraft systems and predicting maintenance takes advantage of the hundreds of sensors already present inside new planes. “Most modern aircraft already have many thousands of parameters flowing around their digital networks,” he said. “Our goal is to integrate the aircraft data in a broader environment with the rest of the airline IT.”

The analytical tools from Taleris will help Etihad’s fleet of advanced Boeing and Airbus planes keep their engines and other mechanical systems in the best working order, burn fuel more efficiently, and repair parts before they fail. The system will also help Etihad hold down maintenance cost, reduce operational downtime and lower the chance for passengers to encounter unexpected equipment maintenance-related delays.

The FAA estimates that delays cost airlines more than $8.3 billion in 2010. But Taleris president and CEO Norm Baker said that “significant benefits can be realized through our predictive analytics technologies which leverage an aircraft’s data within the context of the operations so one can address an issue before it occurs.”

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