Machine learning


GHI Chairman Max Gosney ponders the opportunities for automation that could arise from the coronavirus pandemic

“Donald Trump gave us bleach injections, Vladimir Putin the – buy now, clinically trial it later – Sputnik V vaccine and Boris Johnson the rule of six. After that abject set of Covid-19 solutions from A-league world leaders then my lot is in with the robots. 

Automation has long been a buzzword in aviation, but its apotheosis has arrived in 2020. Researchers Frey and Osborne delivered a white paper on the future of automation in 2013 that estimated 47% of US jobs would be lost to computer algorithms by 2033. We have already witnessed a computer beat a human world champion at that ultimate game of strategy, chess in 1996. Nearly 25 years later and the computers have grown exponentially smarter through AI. For example, algorithms used by Facebook mean a computer can predict your behaviour better than a close friend after you make just 70 likes.

Apply that mastery of algorithms into aviation and the performance improvements are irrefutable. Machines could provide highly personalised services to satisfy even the most cantankerous passenger. ‘Welcome to check in’ says our fictional smartbot. ‘We’ve placed you on the aisle seat by the wing, here’s a free download of your favourite mag and the attendant will bring you that second bottle of Zinfandel that we know gets you off to sleep after the meal service’.

The smart bot may be armed with facial recognition software allowing it to adapt its volume and intonation to meet the passengers preferred accent and cadence of conversation.

Out on the apron and the rise of the robots will be no less accomplished. Arriving aircraft may dock at the gate using an automated guidance systems and see cargo offloaded on AI dollies. Goodbye to chocks and 101 different coning arrangements for the A320.

Now something in your soul might rankle at the loss of the human touch. The energy, the artistry and teamwork that power every turn. But the truth is the machines will never slip, trip or dent the aircraft door while they are daydreaming. In their hydraulic powered hands, the hallowed goal of: safety, quality and flawless OTP lay in wait.

Please join us at the Annual Conference in Copenhagen as we look ahead to the rise of the machines. We’ll be inviting industry leaders to a special GHI debate on the opportunities for digitisation as a result of the pandemic.”

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