We Use Waze For Driving, And Now US Airlines Have The Same Option

Whether you use Google Maps, Waze, or another gps-based map app, you know that this improves your driving experience. That’s because in addition to finding the best ways to get from one place to another, they also monitor traffic and other road conditions so that you don’t get stuck in a long wait because of roadwork or an accident. Many drivers have become dependent on these services, and undoubtedly time and gas usage have been saved as a result.

Now, thanks to a clever and well-designed software program called Flyways AI, commercial airlines can benefit from this same kind of technology. The results are shorter flight times, less fuel used, and overall more efficient routings. The idea makes perfect sense, and yet it has taken time to create this in a way that airline dispatchers and pilots can trust and intuitively understand.

How This Came About

Over the last three years, the team at Airspace Intelligence has been perfecting a platform that uses many government databases to create a real-time picture of air traffic across the US This team recognized that the current airline industry uses many manual processes and dated technologies, often with hard-coded rules about how to route airplanes on a given route. Using modern software development practices, advanced cloud technology and AI, the team believed that they could use available data to better route aircraft on a real-time basis, adjusting for traffic, weather, and other issues that the pilots may encounter.

Flyways AI commercially launched with Alaska Airlines in March 2020, and since that time over 38,000 Alaska flights have been optimized using the platform. Airspace Intelligence estimates that this has saved 21 million pounds of fuel, and 34,000 tons of carbon emissions. Obviously, March 2020 was when the pandemic hit full stride, so the number of opportunities to optimize were limited initially, and the amount of air traffic was also limited so there weren’t as many optimization opportunities. But now, with air traffic approaching pre-pandemic capacity levels, finding ways to route airplanes more efficiently through congested skies makes perfect sense.

What The Flyways AI Platform Offers Airlines

Most legacy airline systems use hard-coded rules for flight planning that are manually updated when needed. The Flyways AI system is self-learning, meaning that it continually updates its knowledge as the databases of the US National Airspace System change. It also keeps track of all the flights it has optimized, and learns what changes have worked and which weren’t as successful. This means that, over time, an airline’s route planning increasingly becomes more efficient.

Flyways AI generates accurate predictions of flight demand and airspace capacity several hours into the future. It does this by a continual analysis and evaluation of weather (convective thunderstorms, turbulence, and wind forecasts), airspace constraints imposed by airports or FAA Air Traffic Control, FAA route restrictions, traffic management initiatives, traffic volume, and runway configurations. Every two to three minutes, the system evaluates the operational safety, ATC compliance, and efficiency of an airplane’s planned and filed flight plan. Then, it provides actionable recommendations to dispatchers, ATC chiefs, and pilots when a better alternative is found.

Since the system is using real-time data on one platform, it can improve the situational awareness in the cockpit and at the dispatcher’s desk. Having a clearer idea of ​​what is coming up in the flight path allows faster and more efficient decisions to be made about the flight. Rather than focusing on only a single flight, the Flyways AI platform is continually watching the entire airspace network. This can better identify larger blocked passage ways, points of congestion, and other issues that one might not see looking at only a single flight path. The result of this is less fuel burned, fewer CO2 emissions, shorter flight times, and ultimately lower costs and better service for airline customers.

Why US Airlines Should Care About This

Airlines have made a commitment to have net-zero emissions by 2050. There are many things they can do to make this happen, including the use of sustainable jet fuel. But using less fuel on each and every flight by continuously optimizing the flight path real-time, based on that flight’s specific situation in the national airspace system, will result in massive fuel savings and this will lower emissions. For this reason alone, understanding how this new technology can make the operations more efficient makes a lot of sense.

Beyond this, airline employees and their customers will appreciate a better path when one is available, as they will save time and frustration. The cost savings opportunities extend to the crew time, and over time perhaps even aircraft utilization could pick up a notch or two. Imagine driving your car on a long trip without the use of Waze or Google Maps, but instead just using the way you have usually taken this trip. That is effectively how airlines flight plan today, not using all of the available data about congestion, weather, and other issues and not regularly updating plans as things change in flight.

Good Chance Of Success

While this is a good idea on its own, ideas by themselves do not always become great products without a strong team and customers willing to embrace and take advantage of new technologies. Airspace Intelligence has assembled a team of multi-domain experts from Amazon, Google, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Palantir to help guide the development and ensure a best-in-class approach. The company is backed by proven financial investors like Renegade Partners, Franklin Templeton, Bloomberg Beta, Spark Capital, and Google’s Gradient Ventures. Alaska Airlines, as a first customer, is undoubtedly helping to make the system more practical and useful for real-time applications. While the system is available for use in the domestic 48 US states today, the team expects to be able to offer worldwide support shortly as they expand sourcing of reliable and accurate data supporting flight operations in other parts of the world.

Airline operations have benefited from new technologies in many ways. Airplane and engine parts “tell” mechanics when they need to be replaced, airplanes send information to the ground with a status of measurable systems, drones can fly around and inspect an aircraft more quickly and accurately than a mechanic walking around, and many more ideas too. Real-time network-wide optimization of flight plans is now a reality, and every US airline can benefit from this exciting and reliable technology.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.