The 3 Big Challenges with Big Data in Aviation

It’s estimated that 40 million flights were operated worldwide in 2019. And while 2020’s flight operations have slowed down as a result of COVID-19, the annual number of flights is expected to return to normal and outpace 2019 over the next few years.

Before COVID-19 posed financial and health and safety problems for aviation operators, there was another issue plaguing the industry: effectively managing and leveraging big data to optimize and streamline operations.

In this post, I will explore some of the big data challenges many operators face as well as provide some resources to help overcome them.

Challenge 1 – Handling the Flood of Data Volume

The aviation industry is awash in big data – and has been for many years. So, what does 40 million flights in 2019 mean? Well, on the busiest day, July 25, 2019, there were 230,000 flights. And each flight generates several terabytes worth of data. When you factor in that the next generation of aircrafts will generate five to eight terabytes per flight, which is already 80 times greater than planes in the air today, it’s no wonder why industry analysts expect annual data generation to reach 98 million terabytes by 2026. The task of managing and processing data is made more complex and challenging with the variety of data types aviation operators must ingest and analyze on any given flight.

Challenge 2 – Managing Diverse Data Types, Formats, and Structures

To say that a wide variety of data types, formats, and structures must come together to realize a safe flight environment doesn’t really do the feat justice. The data ranges from weather conditions, air traffic, aircraft speed, fuel consumption, engine performance, real-time sensors, radar, border sectors, and more. This list is nowhere near exhaustive. And all of the different data types, formats, and structures involved with a safe and successful flight operation are coming in at the speed of now. Pilots and flight operators need access to the data as soon as possible for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is real-time decisions-making. But if it takes too long to receive and use important data, then operators must work without accurate or relevant information.

Challenge 3 – Analyzing and Using Data at the Speed of Now

It’s a real headache for pilots and flight operators if new data and information needs to be used, but can’t be used because they’re stuck processing. Avoiding data preprocessing and conversions are critical because they effect timeliness of delivery, accuracy, and, most of the time, result in loss of information. Preprocessing and conversions also create additional data sets, which compounds the challenges of managing large data volumes. To analyze and use data in real time, flight operators need technologies that automatically integrate and support a multitude of native data types, formats, and structures – in real time. Having technologies specifically developed for aviation needs is also important.

So, What’s Next?

To optimize and streamline aviation operations, industry leaders and decision makers need to effectively manage and leverage big data. However, to create meaningful and sustainable plans that address increased air traffic and congestion, air and noise pollution, airport security, and other growing concerns, operators need the right tools and technologies.

With Hexagon’s Luciad portfolio, operators get a technology that connects to aviation domain data in its native format. There’s no preprocessing or conversions needed, giving pilots and flight operators the ability to analyze and use data in real time.

Learn more about how Luciad technology helps Lufthansa, Eurocontrol, and Airbus exploit big data to overcome pressing industry challenges and streamline daily operations.

Watch our webinar, “How to Exploit Real-Time Big Data to Optimize Aviation Operations.”