Rolls Royce wants to make an IntelligentEngine for planes

At the Singapore Airshow last week, Rolls-Royce launched their new IntelligentEngine concept. The IntelligentEngine is a concept that aims to use Big Data and Artificial Intelligence(AI) to develop plane engines that are safer, more efficient and will have the ability to communicate and self-learn from each other. These next-gen engines will exchange information and learn from other engines around it.

Aircraft engines are sophisticated machinery that needs a lot of care and regular maintenance. With a greater number of people flying than ever before and an increasing demand for more efficient travel, IntelligentEngine is an extension of the company’s TotalCare service, which began in the 1990s.

According to Richard Goodhead, Senior VP Marketing for Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace, the Intelligent Engine is “the confluence of three concepts—product, services and digital—coming together.”

He said that when Total Care started for Trent engines (the ones which power some of the biggest jets in the world, such as the A350 and the A380, the B777 & B787), the three concepts started to overlap and now the British engine manufacturer is processing far more data and doing far more with it.

The coming together of product and service, supercharged by digital technology, offers Rolls-Royce a wealth of opportunities to improve the way it provides power to its customers.

In addition to designing, testing, and maintaining engines in the digital realm, the IntelligentEngine vision sets out a future where an engine will be increasingly connected, contextually aware and comprehending, helping to deliver greater reliability and efficiency:

  • Connected with other engines, its support ecosystem, and with its customer, allowing for regular, two-way flow of information between many parties
  • Contextually aware of its operating context, constraints and the needs of the customer, allowing it to respond to the environment around it without human intervention
  • Comprehending learning from its own experiences and from its network of peers to adjust its behaviour and achieve the best performance

IntelligentEngine will use digital technology and Big Data not just to self-learn but also foresee requirements and make self-adjustments to improve efficiency and reduce costs without compromising on safety- for example, the engines will be able to make changes in response to constantly changing weather conditions at various cruising altitudes.

Through a continuous two-way communication with the engine and other parts of the service ecosystem, these engines will be able to resolve problems on their own and self-learn how to improve performance.

Today, more than 400 airlines use aircrafts powered by Rolls-Royce engines. In 2016, the company invested 1.3 billion GBP on research and development. The Rolls-Royce’s R2 Data Labs, an acceleration hub for data innovation that was launched in December 2017, will play a key role in achieving the aims of the IntelligentEngine.

Bottomline

It would be cool to have engines that have it all figured out since it would make life much easier for the maintenance crew. But that also raises a security concern about one more way of hacking a plane and making it do stuff the pilot incharge does not want it to. So I’m willing to wait and see how this progresses because it is a great idea on paper but we need more proof of concept before I could believe in engines that have it all figured out.

What do you think about the IntelligentEngine? 

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