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New infrastructure to boost smart aviation

日期: 2020-06-29
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BEIJING -- China's pledge to develop new infrastructure is adding momentum to the civil aviation industry, and the adoption of smart technologies and digitalization.

China, with its continuous economic growth, is the world's second largest civil aviation market, and the new infrastructure is expected to give it an added boost.

'Taking the opportunity of the new infrastructure, China's civil aviation industry is expected to generate new technologies, experiences and even standards,' said Zheng Hongfeng, CEO of VariFlight, a China-based civil aviation data service provider.

Eyeing the future

China has rolled out short-term incentives and long-term plans to spur demand, including capital from special local government bonds, and ramped up investment in infrastructure, according to this year's government work report.

The new infrastructure pledge is expected to drive investment into digital facilities such as 5G base stations, big data centers, artificial intelligence and industrial Internet.

Civil aviation is one of China's strategic industries, and the opportunities for digital and intelligent technologies would help improve efficiency and reduce costs.

'High efficiency and input-output ratios are critical to the civil aviation industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led a worldwide decrease in air travel,' Zheng said.

A pilot project for whole-journey luggage-tracking systems has begun at six major airports. As of mid-May, three air routes were providing services for passengers to track luggage across the entire journey, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

By the end of 2021, the CAAC will push forward whole-journey luggage-tracking on all domestic air routes at major airports with an annual passenger throughput of at least 10 million, and by the end of 2025, the service will be used on all domestic air routes and some international routes.

Human-oriented tech

'Digitalization is a new value-growth point of the whole aviation industry,' said Xu Jun, vice president of Asia-Pacific OEMs of Honeywell Aerospace.

In the civil aviation sector, digitalization means safety, efficiency and cost savings, according to Zheng.

The first breakthrough lies in the digital transformation and intelligent upgrading of airlines, airports and air traffic control.

In 2019, Sichuan Airlines launched a ground support system that could collect data from 68 major working positions. Using big data analysis, the airline reduced manual information transmission by about 30 percent and significantly lifted operational efficiency.

Meanwhile, 5G, artificial intelligence and other technologies are expected to improve flight experiences for passengers.

Southwest China's Yunnan province has three regional airports in Baoshan, Tengchong and Mangshi. These are in mountainous regions and all suffer from severe weather conditions including gales, thunderstorms and low visibility.

Airlines and local governments jointly created a digital-based collaborative operation system to share facilities, ground transport and other resources in help of digital technologies. The system has improved airline operational efficiency.

Global opportunities

China's new infrastructure pledge will offer opportunities at home and aboard.

'China's commitment to develop smart airports is injecting new opportunities into global aviation by creating a worldwide market for innovative ideas and technologies,' said Chris Tam, TLD Group Asia vice president.

'China is a great market for us, massive demand and huge potential. Beyond a great market, China is dragging new technologies into practical applications,' Tam said.

The CAAC has enhanced support to sustain industry growth, and set safe, green, smart and human-oriented airports as a priority.

Industry insiders noted the formulation of industry standards is also significant for China to become a civil aviation power.

'Smart technologies are acknowledged to be the future of the world's civil aviation industry, and digitalization is its base,' Zheng said.

For example, China implemented the Airport-Collaborative Decision-Making (A-CDM) system in 2017, and put it into use at all airports with annual passenger throughput over 10 million by 2019.

The A-CDM has been globally recognized and helps improve efficiency and resilience in airport operations.

This year, China is expected to introduce the world's first A-CDM standard with the intelligent system as the focus.

'Leveraging the new infrastructure opportunities, we will persist in focusing on the digitalization and intelligence of civil aviation to better serve passengers and industry growth,' Zheng said.

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