Open Innovation Gives the Aerospace Industry a Lift

Published Jun-30-19

An airplane cabin cleaning robot to minimize the time it takes for cabin checks.

AirAsia/Ministry of Education, Malaysia

The Story:

Open Innovation Gives the Aerospace Industry a Lift Organizations within the aerospace industry are increasingly challenging the professional community and the general public to solve technical challenges, dream up new customer experiences and improve existing ones. In today's marketplace, companies are alive to the need for ongoing product development and innovation to meet and exceed customer expectations. Often this means developing improved solutions in less time and at lower costs.

A common open innovation approach to engage interested parties is through hackathons which can yield solutions in highly truncated timeframes. Even if these are not taken up the events are still useful for the ideas they generate to provoke new and beneficial lines of thought.

Numerous airlines have run successful hackathons to help them innovate including Air France for a new in-flight meal tray and tableware design, Lufthansa Cargo for ideas to help reduce its environmental impact and Virgin Atlantic for ideas to improve passenger services.

Innovations for the Future

In early 2019 AirAsia and the Ministry of Education in Malaysia launched the Aviatar 2019 Aerospace Hackathon, a three-day event to foster aerospace innovation and creative thinking. It attracted more than 300 university and college students who organized themselves into teams of up to five. Their task was to present working proof of concepts to help address aviation challenges of the future.

The 60 participating teams were whittled down to five who pitched their ideas at the Grand Finale. The overall winner was Team BringFly from the University of Malaya for a cabin cleaning robot with image recognition. Their solution is intended to speed up the time it takes to clean and prepare cabins between flights, helping airlines adhere to their on-time performance goals. The robot can vacuum floors among other cleaning duties and ensure life jackets are present and correctly stowed.

In addition to the prize money, Team BringFly was given the opportunity to travel to France to try and further develop their idea with several aerospace companies including Air France Industries and Airbus.

Hackathon Benefits

As well as being a fertile ground for new concepts where outsiders bring fresh perspectives to business challenges, hackathons are a good way for individuals, teams and small companies to network and get themselves noticed – a win-win scenario for all involved.

“The aviation and aerospace industry is transforming with Industry 4.0 in mind and we believe the competition will provide students with first-hand information, industry trends and insights,” said Deputy Director General of Higher Education Dr Mohd Nor Azman Hassan.

“This hackathon is also an opportunity for our young talents to explore the plethoric opportunities of advancing the technologies that surround the aviation and aerospace industry, pushing it into the new realms of artificial intelligence, big data analytics and the Internet of Things.”

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