The aviation industry is mulling the application of the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and cloud-computing technologies to its industry. Albeit, the applicable use of these technologies is relatively new, it seems that blockchain could have great benefits especially for airlines in the area of aircraft maintenance process. Flight operations performance monitoring, aircraft components and systems performance monitoring for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) providers could also benefit from the use of this technology. In that regard, Lufthansa Industry Solutions recently launched the initiative Blockchain for Aviation (BC4A) whose aim is to compile potential applications of blockchain in the field of aviation and to create joint standards for its use. Potential participants include, for instance, software developers, aircraft manufacturers, MRO service providers, logistics providers, lessors, and regulators.
Blockchain is defined as a data structure that has the ability to establish a digital archive or to record blocks of data or transactions. This information can be shared and easily accessed by users across networks of different computers. Shared ledgers are possible thanks to robust cryptographic techniques and a distributed messaging protocol. Blockchain technology is under the spotlight because of the different use cases that can be done by the industry. The advantage that blockchain offers compared to traditional data technology is the fact that it is consistent and durable, shared and mutualised, besides being protected. Several applications of blockchain are possible that establish trust, accountability, and transparency.
Airlines are mostly interested in the use of the blockchain technology because of the share of a digital ledger with MRO teams and OEMs to record flight events, operations conditions, and scheduled aircraft maintenance checks. One of the potential application of the technology relates to the registration of components in a blockchain after they are manufactured together with all relevant data such as serial codes. If a component is installed in an airplane, this information can be saved again in another blockchain and if the part then malfunctions, maintenance technicians can use the information stored to review the exact number of flight hours and to decide whether to replace or repair the part. If it is repaired, this information can then be saved in a separate blockchain for the component in question.
But the technology can also be applied to other areas such as drones to address cybersecurity and privacy concerns. Blockchain may help regularize and control appropriate use of drones. It does so by keeping a high-speed, assured ledger of airspace activity and information regarding the drone and its operator, and distributing it to all appropriate parties. For instance, the drone’s GPS may receive the locations of other drones, either directly from the others or through drone controllers on the ground. It may also receive security validation of its own hardware,
so by keeping a high-speed, assured ledger of airspace activity and information regarding the drone and its operator, and distributing it to all appropriate parties. For instance, the drone’s GPS may receive the locations of other drones, either directly from the others or through drone controllers on the ground. It may also receive security validation of its own hardware, software and provenance. To help ensure the great capabilities, concerns regarding security may begin to be addressed by blockchain. The beneficial drone ecosystem can be reinforced by a radio frequency and blockchain management system.
Blockchain is still in its early deployment phase and the full scope of application is still unclear. Nevertheless, what might be expected is that blockchain applications will also give rise to new players that will coordinate and govern the new ecosystems and it might require the developing of tools and standards to give it a start. It is obvious its impact on the aviation industry will be dramatic and not only for airline operators.