Digital Twins Fly High in the Aviation Industry

Digital Twins in the Aviation Industry

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the number of air travelers plummeted to 1.8 billion, the global aviation industry has experienced a wild rollercoaster ride. Although passenger numbers are gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels, they still fall short of earlier projections. The industry faces numerous challenges, including recent aircraft safety lapses, increasingly long aircraft delivery timelines, and a growing pilot shortage.

Amid these turbulent times, the aviation industry is turning to Digital Twins as a lifeline to do more with less and to enhance operations worldwide. But before delving into how Digital Twins can help the aviation sector soar back to its previous heights, we will need to first examine the current state of the industry to understand the issues at hand.

Lack of Digital Twins in Aviation: Turbulence for the Industry

The aviation industry as a whole has experienced severe turmoil over the past few years. At a time when airlines were haemorrhaging over $168 billion in economic losses in 2020, all stakeholders of the aviation sector, including pilots, airport staff, maintenance workers, and air traffic management staff were impacted. Let’s look at how these various stakeholders have been affected by this turbulence.

Air Traffic Management Staff

The number of runway excursions, excursions, and other close calls has skyrocketed over the past 2 years, leading to concerns about security. While pilot-related, mechanical, and other issues have also played a part, one of the main reasons behind this is the shortage of Air Traffic Control Staff. This shortage has not only had a negative impact on safety but also puts immense pressure on the existing staff, which when combined with non-lucrative pay leads to a shortage of staff, often leading to an airport not being able to operate at peak efficiency. 

Aircraft Design

It is well established in the aviation sector that aircraft design is a time-consuming affair. However, as airplanes get increasingly complex and try to leverage new technologies such as composite materials and new propulsion systems to minimize emissions and maximize efficiency, these design times have increased, reaching an average of 7 years, just for an aircraft to go through the design phase. While this is in itself not very problematic for the aviation sector in the short run, as the sector plans to become more and more eco-friendly in the long run, this becomes a problem, delaying the launch of new and more eco-friendly aircraft designs.

Aircraft Construction

Transitioning from an issue that is not much of a problem for the sector right now, aircraft construction issues seem to be the biggest issue facing the aircraft industry in early 2024. As we have seen recently, incidents such as the aircraft door blow-out, the wheel falling off just after take-off, and the 2 Boeing Max crashes, have brought the light on safety standards and aircraft construction, with people being more hesitant than ever about traveling on planes.

Aircraft Maintenance

With airlines struggling to keep up in the tightening economy and slowly recovering sector. Aircraft maintenance becomes a large cost for airlines to bear, especially if the maintenance ends up being unplanned. As airlines acquire more planes or use older aircraft, they have to deal with increasing aircraft maintenance costs.

Airline Operations

As is well understood by airlines, their aircraft only make money when they are flying in the air. However, keeping an aircraft flying requires a lot of cogs to move in sync and keep the operations running and on schedule. With having to manage hundreds of schedules and working around unplanned delays, ensuring that all airline operations move according to plan becomes a large challenge.

Air Crash Investigation

While catastrophic crashes or incidents have come down significantly in the aviation industry, these investigations still take a very long time, especially in gathering and putting all together all the pieces of the incident. These long timelines often lead to a temporary erosion of public trust, monetary implications for companies, and difficulties for all the parties involved.

As all these issues continue to hold back the aviation industry from soaring higher, airlines and other stakeholders are looking at Digital Twins to help solve the issues. Let’s now explore how Digital Twin Technology can help the aviation industry improve all these aspects.

Digital Twins in Aviation Industry

We have seen the rise of Digital Twin Technology as a transformative tool across various industries, and its impact on aviation is particularly profound. By creating virtual replicas of physical aircraft and their operational environments, Digital Twins are revolutionizing aircraft design, construction, maintenance, airline operations, air traffic management, and even air crash investigations. Let’s explore how Digital Twins in Aviation are enhancing each of these areas.

Aircraft Design

Digital Twins enable more efficient and precise aircraft design processes. Engineers can develop a virtual model of an aircraft and simulate its performance under different conditions using real-time data. This simulation allows for more accurate predictions of aerodynamic behavior, structural integrity, and overall performance. Design iterations can be tested virtually, reducing the need for physical prototypes and accelerating the design phase. This not only saves time and costs but also enhances the safety and reliability of the final aircraft design.

Aircraft Construction

In aircraft construction, Digital Twins streamline manufacturing processes and ensure quality control. By integrating Digital Twin technology with manufacturing systems, engineers can monitor the production line in real-time. This helps in identifying potential issues early, optimizing workflows, and ensuring that each component meets the required specifications. Digital Twins in aviation also facilitate predictive maintenance during the construction phase by monitoring the health and performance of machinery used in manufacturing. 

Aircraft Maintenance

Digital Twins play a crucial role in predictive and proactive aircraft maintenance. By continuously collecting and analyzing operational data from sensors embedded within aircraft systems, maintenance crews can anticipate potential failures before they occur. This predictive maintenance approach reduces unscheduled downtime, increases operational efficiency, and enhances overall safety. Moreover, Digital Twins allow for remote monitoring and troubleshooting, enabling maintenance teams to diagnose issues from anywhere in the world. Rolls Royce utilizes an intelligent Digital Twin platform to continuously monitor all of its engines, helping them plan preventative maintenance and get a precise idea of engine life, potentially extending their flight time and reducing the number of services required. Before the use of Digital Twins, engines would have to be removed from the aircraft for scheduled maintenance, keeping the engines’ TOW (time on wing) at average levels. However, with Digital Twins, Rolls Royce has managed to increase the TOW for some critical parts by over 70%.

Airline Operations

For airline operations, Digital Twin Technology offers comprehensive insights into fleet management and operational efficiency. By creating virtual representations of each aircraft in the fleet, airlines can monitor real-time performance metrics, fuel efficiency, and maintenance needs. This data-driven approach enables optimized flight planning, better resource allocation, and improved scheduling to minimize delays and disruptions. Digital Twins can also simulate scenarios to optimize routes based on weather conditions, airspace congestion, and fuel costs.

Air Traffic Management

In air traffic management, Digital Twins facilitate enhanced situational awareness and decision-making. By integrating Digital Twins with air traffic control systems, controllers can visualize the entire airspace and monitor aircraft movements in real-time. This enables more efficient routing, reduced congestion, and enhanced safety by predicting potential conflicts and providing actionable insights to controllers.

Air Crash Investigations

Digital Twins are transforming air crash investigations by providing detailed reconstructions of flight events. By combining flight data recorders (black boxes) with Digital Twin technology, investigators can recreate the entire flight scenario leading up to an incident or accident. This includes analyzing aircraft behavior, environmental conditions, pilot inputs, and system malfunctions. Such reconstructions assist investigators in understanding the sequence of events and identifying contributing factors, leading to more accurate and timely accident reports.

Aviating with Twinsights

Digital Twin technology is reshaping the aviation industry by optimizing aircraft design, construction, maintenance, operations, air traffic management, and accident investigations. At Twinsights, we believe in converting your Vision into a Digital Reality. By leveraging real-time data and advanced simulation capabilities, Twinsights’ Digital Twins in aviation can enable stakeholders to make informed decisions, improve safety, reduce costs, and enhance overall efficiency across all facets of aviation. We have worked with companies in the aviation sector to help them overcome these problems and boost their growth. We continue to evolve our technology offerings, aiming to increase our impact on the industry exponentially, ushering in a new era of innovation, safety, and sustainability in aviation!

Looking to work with the latest Digital Twin Technologies to take your aviation operation to new heights? Reach out to us

Follow us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more updates.

We are here to help. Let's build together!

Contact Banner Desktop