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Harnessing the Power of Today’s Sensor-Filled Aircraft

As aircraft become ever more complex, the volume of valuable data they capture and generate is rising fast. But making the most of that data poses challenges for aerospace players and airline operators alike. Quantum computing promises to process the huge amounts of information delivered by airplanes – at lightning-fast speeds.

More Data = Greater Insight: But Only if You Can Process It Fast

Today’s aircraft are increasingly connected and are equipped with a steadily growing number of state-of-the-art sensors. As a result, aerospace manufacturers are transitioning from traditional “nuts-and-bolts” businesses into mobility companies that collect and leverage vast volumes of data.

It’s no exaggeration to say that modern aircraft are computers of the sky. Take the Airbus A350, for example, which boasts more than 250,000 sensors, generating over 10GB of data every hour the plane spends in the air.

This data has the potential deliver invaluable insight into performance and maintenance requirements and could also help ensure passengers reach their destinations safely and on time. In fact, the information from onboard systems is likely to be pivotal in shaping the transport of tomorrow – but only provided it can be processed in real time. And this poses a thorny challenge for conventional computers.

The Solution: Quantum Computing

Fortunately, help is at hand – in the form of quantum computing. Without diving too deep into the tech, we can say that the key difference between quantum and conventional computers lies in how they manipulate data.

Conventional computers manipulate individual bits, which store information as binary 0 and 1 states. Quantum computers, by contrast, leverage quantum mechanical phenomena to perform this task and rely on quantum bits, also known as qubits.

The upshot? Where a classic supercomputer would take thousands of years to run a highly complex operation, a quantum computer can complete the job in just a matter of minutes. And it is this paradigm shift in computing that will enable aircraft manufacturers and operators to harness the data generated by today’s airborne computers in real time.

Real-World Use Case 1: Airline Operator

Well, that’s the theory. But does quantum computing have practical applications in the aerospace and air travel sectors? IBM and Delta Airlines certainly think so. The two giants in their respective industries have joined forces to sound out the technology and are currently exploring a range of potential benefits for operations and customers alike.

The results of their partnership suggest that quantum computers could help leverage the masses of data generated by today’s aircraft to optimize routes, demand, and schedules – for faster, more efficient travel at lower cost to consumers, plus reduced carbon emissions.

For example, the power of quantum computing could enable operators to simultaneously coordinate 100 planes, each flying to five different locations a day, making sure they not only arrive at their destinations on schedule, but also that they spend as little time as possible on the ground.

Real-World Use Case 2: Aerospace Manufacturer

It’s not just airline operators who are putting quantum computing through its paces. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is also active in this area. But here the challenges and opportunities are somewhat different.

The software that runs the critical systems of today’s aircraft can consist of more than 120 million lines of code. And to ensure safety during operations, this code has to be reliably verified and validated – an essential but extremely time-consuming and complex process.

The potential benefits of quantum computing here are clear: By accelerating verification and validation, the technology could not only increase the efficiency of the production process, but also help maximize the safety of flight operations.

What’s more, quantum computing holds considerable promise when it comes to improving cryptographic algorithms, rapidly debugging millions of lines of software code, and powering advanced machine learning scenarios.

Why You Should Start Looking at Quantum Computing

If you’re an airline operator, it makes good business sense to start looking seriously at quantum computing. By enabling parallel computations that can solve highly complex problems at hitherto unimaginable speeds, this technology will ultimately yield major time and cost savings for you and your customers alike.

As ever, you should start considering how quantum computing could help your business as soon as possible. After all, the early adopters are the ones who can expect to gain a clear competitive edge further down the line.

The Coronavirus Crisis: Looking Ahead in Troubled Times

While the global coronavirus pandemic now affects every one of us, it has hit the travel sector especially hard. As a growing number of countries go into lockdown, and travel is restricted, hotels and airlines are facing massive losses. In this unprecedented situation, tech is at best a secondary concern.

In the hope that the current crisis will soon be under control, I’ve decided to continue spotlighting how technology can help the industry when operations return to normal.

Until next month, stay safe and well.

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