Is decentralised data the key to safer air travel?
Every year, the aviation industry creates unimaginable amounts of data which is then used to keep air travel reliable and passengers safe. One startup, AeroChain is launching a new protocol that will keep aviation data stored securely on a decentralised blockchain network.
At the moment, all data pertaining to aviation is stored by custodial figures who are responsible for sending the information to the relevant authorities and businesses. Of course, where humans are concerned, there is always room for error but by using the blockchain, this risk is reduced.
AeroChain will keep all recorded data on the blockchain and it will be only viewable to those that have been given permission. Storing data in a decentralised manner means that the issue of errors and delays can be negated when it comes to passing information onto other stakeholders.
In the future, AeroChain plan to expand their protocol to include more extensive and sophisticated data management and logging tools. The first application is set to be released this summer and it will focus on managing pilot certification data, plane maintenance data, and other datasets that are integral to keeping the skies safe.
Pilots are responsible for not just their own safety, but the safety of passengers, other aircraft, and of course those on the ground as well. This means that professionals that fly commercial airliners, right down to recreational pilots flying single-engine planes are responsible for the safety of many people.
An issue of compliance
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets out stringent requirements when it comes to the number of air hours that aviation students and pilots must undertake in order to acquire and keep their license.
A private pilot must complete 40 hours of airtime to get their license as well as competing in three take-off and landing cycles every 90 days in order to retain it. Pilots are also required to avoid flying more than a set amount, and the FAA sets weekly limits to prevent pilot exhaustion. At the moment, pilots are responsible for logging their hours and this is open to human error as well as fraud or the losing of important data.
Brooks Butler, the CEO of PSA Airlines noted that some pilots logbooks were off by over 20 hours in some cases meaning that there is a risk of unqualified pilots cruising the skies.
Another activity that needs to be immutably recorded is plane maintenance. A plane that either fails or misses a required check risks losing its certification from the FAA. At the moment, any time that a plane receives any maintenance, this is logged in the craft’s maintenance logbook. These books are not only essential for safety but they can have a drastic impact on the value of the plane, should the owner choose to sell it.
In 1992 in the midst of an aviation lawsuit, an example was given that a plane valued at $230,000 could only be sold for half the price as the logbook was missing. Likewise, mistakes in entries or data can result in engineers and mechanics losing their jobs or facing legal action.
What does the future hold?
AeroChain is poised to offer a range of decentralised solutions for both pilot and maintenance logbooks. Whilst they won’t replace traditional paper practices, they will facilitate more efficient data management for owners, pilots, and mechanics. For example, by updating a blockchain-based logbook, one can instantly share the current records with all required stakeholders. A blockchain-based logbook cannot be edited, deleted, lost, or changed in any way.
Blockchain also has the potential to serve as a foundation in the world of plane insurance or to assist in the process of commercial pilots acquiring charter clients. As the protocol of the application evolves, AeroChain plan to implement more and more uses for the software.