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AI, flying taxis identified as emerging megatrends in the air transport sector

13th December 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Global air transport industry information technology (IT) provider SITA has identified both generative artificial intelligence (AI) and urban air mobility (UAM) as among the emerging megatrends in the industry. It did so in its latest 'Meet the Megatrends' report.

No fewer than 97% of airlines are planning programmes to develop generative AI technology. Airports are also interested in it. Further, 86% of airlines are working with innovation partners to further develop AI, computer vision and machine learning. This figure can be subdivided into 39% of airlines, which have already implemented such programmes, and 47% which have confirmed their plans to start such programmes before the end of 2026. A mere 3% of airlines have no plans to invest in AI.

A related megatrend, originally identified last year, but which has grown rapidly over the past 12 months, is digital travel. This embraces the creation of digital identities for passengers and the use of biometrics to identify these passengers. By the end of 2026, 82% of airlines intend to use biometric-enabled digital identity technologies for passengers boarding their aircraft. Another 67% of airlines committed themselves to using touchless technologies, and 50% to employing single token technologies.

UAM vehicles are popularly called air taxis or flying taxis, and are small electrically, or hybrid-electrically, powered passenger aircraft for short-range routes within urban areas, especially major cities. This sector has seen a surge of interest from airlines and airports.

Interest in UAMs has been stimulated by progress with battery and electric propulsion systems, the need to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint and falling operational costs. Demand for short-range routes has also increased. Indeed, a UAM service could be launched in Paris, in France, as soon as next year (for the 2024 Olympic Games).

SITA reports that 32% of airlines have confirmed major research and development (R&D) programmes into UAM infrastructure and services, while 33% are investing in vertical take-off or landing (VTOL) integration technologies, for airline operations. As for airports, 32% have confirmed that they have major UAM programmes, including R&D projects. A majority of airports (57%) also have major, including R&D, programmes for intermodal transport systems data-sharing integration, while 26% are investing in VTOL integration technologies.

“It’s an exciting time for travel with new technologies transforming our industry at rates previously unseen,” highlighted SITA senior VP strategy and growth rnablement Patrick Svensson Gillstedt. “While AI is a key example of this, it’s encouraging to see other innovations like UAM, digital travel and intermodal travel also gathering pace.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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