The Internet of Things, with all its connectivity, will be coming to the skies soon, as it must.
While Gogo focuses on in-flight Wi-Fi in commercial and private jets, CEO Michael Small predicts the “connected plane,” an aircraft that communicates predictive maintenance solutions, diagnostic and operational status information in real-time, will ultimately be a larger business for the company.
“We got our start with passenger connectivity but it is very clear that the connected aircraft is the future,” Small said on CNBC’s Squawk Box March 24, the day of the crash of Germanwings flight 9525.
“In fact, I predict ultimately that we get more revenue from connecting the plane and its crew than we do from the passenger.”
Asked about the relative lack of evolution in black box technology, which has investigators searching for these physical objects at crash sites, Small addressed the Germanwings tragedy.
“First our hearts go out to the families involved there. It’s an awful situation …”
It should be noted that the interview took place before information came out that the Germanwings Fllight 9525 co-pilot, possibly suffering from depression or other medical issues, deliberately flew the plane into a mountain, killing himself and 149 passengers and crew on board.
Speaking about the connected aircraft, Small said: “These types of situations will be rare because you will have predictive maintenance data coming back. Two, you will find the route cause of what went wrong a lot quicker and you certainly will be able to locate the aircraft after the tragedy.”
Small said Gogo’s 2KU satellite technology, which will be rolled out in 2016 for in-flight Wi-Fi, will also support the communication of real-time diagnostics for an aircraft if there is a problem.
This would work for everything from GE engines to Rockwell’s and Honeywell’s avionics, he said.
“We are going to do that,” Small said.
Some analysts have pointed out that such connectivity, which already exists to a lesser extent, could also pose security risks if unauthorized entities intercept the data but clearly the connected plane would be a huge step forward.
Here is the Small interview:
Photo credit: Air safety officials carry the black box from an Embraer passenger plane after recovering it from the site of a crash near the Lagos international airport October 3, 2013. Akitnunde Akinleye / Reuters