Innovation is soaring to new heights in aerial mobility, and recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are challenging the ways traditional methods of flight path monitoring. While there is the potential to significantly enhance safety and efficiency in our increasingly crowded skies, there are also challenges related to how cutting-edge AI technologies can be safely and responsibly applied to new aircraft.

The Challenge of Aerial Mobility

Aerial mobility continues to make inroads on the path to widespread certification and utilization of aircraft to decongest urban areas and more efficiently transport passengers the last 50nm of their trips. With the rapid growth of drones, air taxis, and autonomous aircraft, cities around the world are embracing the potential for faster, cleaner, and more efficient transportation. However, this comes with its own set of challenges, particularly in managing and coordinating the movement of numerous airborne vehicles in urban environments.

AI-Powered Predictive Flight Path Monitoring

AI-driven predictive flight path monitoring has a potential to be a game-changer in this space, but with serious complications if implementation isn’t nearly flawless. AI algorithms, empowered by deep learning and real-time data analysis, enable aerial mobility systems to anticipate and adapt to changing conditions. A potential rosy future could include:

  1. Collision Avoidance: AI algorithms can predict potential conflicts between aerial vehicles and suggest alternative routes to avoid collisions. This proactive approach significantly reduces the risk of accidents, making urban air travel safer for everyone.
  2. Weather Forecasting: AI can process vast amounts of weather data in real-time, allowing aircraft to adjust their routes to avoid turbulence, storms, or adverse conditions. This not only enhances safety but also ensures smoother and more comfortable rides for passengers.
  3. Traffic Management: AI-powered traffic management systems can dynamically allocate airspace and landing zones, optimizing routes to minimize congestion and delays. This promotes efficient use of airspace, reducing travel times and environmental impact.
  4. Predictive Maintenance: AI can predict maintenance needs for aerial vehicles by analyzing sensor data. This preemptive approach ensures that aircraft are in optimal condition, reducing the risk of in-flight mechanical failures.

While the above list of advances sounds incredibly convenient, it also reflects what many sight as an idyllic view of AI’s implementation in aerial mobility. There are numerous challenges to face, including sporadic, erratic flight paths from other aircraft, regulatory integration and certification, as well as ethical and privacy concerns, especially for those not wanting the data from their flights to be shared for privacy reasons. Finally, the methods by which these algorithms are trained must be ironclad, and evasive actions cannot also be prescribed in situations where immediate intervention is necessary.

As many OEMs adopt hybridized approaches to their powertrains, leveraging the best of both internal combustion and battery technology, a similar approach is likely warranted for the most successful of the aerial mobility aircraft: provisioned for future growth with capabilities that can eventually be fully autonomous, but with the option for remote or in-aircraft piloting to occur to assuage passenger concerns and to meet current regulatory requirements.

Why it’s important: As AI continues to evolve, the future of aerial mobility may evolve to leverage this technology as well. AI-driven predictive flight path monitoring may enhance safety but also paves the way for increased automation and autonomy in air travel, if implemented gradually and successful. The runway to AI integration into aviation is a long one, but slow incremental steps will yield benefit.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz