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Air NZ trials computer vision AI for faster aircraft turns

23 Jan 2020

Global tech startup Assaia is working alongside Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport to explore new ways of applying computer vision artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the airline’s performance.

Assaia’s Apron AI technology includes computer vision AI-equipped cameras, which capture key aircraft turn activities and predict future operational needs.

Aircraft turns are defined as the time when an aircraft stops at an airport gate to the time that the aircraft leaves the gate.

Turns include many different coordinated activities, such as disembarking of passengers and crew, cabin cleaning, catering and restocking, offloading of arriving baggage and cargo, refuelling, safety and airworthiness inspections, loading of departing baggage and cargo and passenger embarkation.

Air New Zealand says turn time is a significant contributor to positive passenger experience and airline performance.

Air New Zealand’s programme manager for operational performance, Marianita Willis, says Assaia’s AI technology helps the airline’s operations staff to better monitor and understand what is happening during an aircraft turn and to offer real-time alerts and predictive analysis to better manage operations.

“For each flight there is a precise timeline associated with each activity to get the plane turned – understanding what is happening at each of these points enables us to proactively manage them. The technology enables additional data points to be collected in a real time situation, offering a bird’s eye view which helps us get the necessary equipment and people in place,” she explains.

The AI system’s ability to generate alerts, predictions and timestamps also allows the airline to identify trends and possible future challenges. 

“We’re entering an exciting new era of operations, where data is increasingly leading our decision making and, with this, we are seeing the culmination of efforts right across the business to deliver a new level of excellence for our customers.”

Air New Zealand chief digital officer Jennifer Sepull says AI is just one way in which the company is exploring new technology and innovations to help solve real business challenges and improve performance for its customers.

“In leveraging machine learning and computer vision in this way, we have been able to get actionable data insights. Technology is becoming increasingly accessible through both local and global innovation ecosystems and this is a powerful example of what you can achieve when you build strong technology partnerships.”

Air New Zealand will continue to trial Assaia’s Apron AI system into 2020.