Airlines are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to optimize flight paths, reduce fuel consumption, and improve flight efficiency. According to Bloomberg, Air New Zealand and Qantas Airways are using AI-based software to determine fuel-efficient flight paths for ultra-long flights. Swiss International Air Lines and Lufthansa have also started using AI and forecasting models developed by Google Cloud.
AI-based programs can help pilots avoid extreme weather and instruct them to fly slower, with mapping software designed to improve as it is used more. Flightkeys, an Austria-based company, helps calculate about 380,000 flight plans each day, with a mission to meet emerging requirements of cost-optimized airline operations, trajectory-based operation, and reduction of emissions.
Flightkeys co-founder and former pilot Raimund Zopp emphasized that finding a minimum-cost trajectory is a challenging task, and longer flight routes require a delicate balance of how much fuel can be put on the aircraft and how much to offload. Zopp stressed the importance of a fast and efficient system, and explained that AI and machine learning algorithms are necessary to correctly apply constraints and parameters.
The route planner for Flightkeys is five-dimensional, factoring in latitude, longitude, altitude, time, and the "probabilistic dimension." Zopp explained that the most imprecise data during the planning phase is the actual time of departure, which is not known if the flight will depart on schedule. However, he added that there are many chances to finetune the flight when in the air, as all factors are known more precisely at that point.
AI is impacting much of the airline industry, from ticket sales to cockpit procedures. American airlines are among carriers investing in the sector, and Flightkeys is one of many companies helping airlines optimize their operations and reduce their carbon footprint.