FLYdocs and Willis Lease Finance Corporation (WLFC) are teaming up to develop what the companies say will be the first real use of a blockchain and artificial intelligence solution for managing commercial aircraft, engines and component transitions. The companies are developing a pilot program to use blockchain technology on an open source data sharing platform, which will seek to explore benefits for the aviation industry similar to those that blockchain has provided within the financial sector.
“The fundamental goal of this pilot project is to provide increased data integrity, record immutability and security to the aviation industry. Blockchain and its associated technologies will cultivate a marketplace for the sharing of technical and performance information in a cost-efficient and transparent way,” explains Charles Willis, chairman and CEO of WLFC.
Willis says that although WLFC and FLYdocs will act as the architects for development of the communal platform, users will be able to access data and resources autonomously. The companies say that the anonymity in data on the platform will allow for “complete trust between users, so they drive their own big data analysis initiatives rather than relying on the OEM or third parties.”
Industry stakeholders have expressed deep interest in blockchain solutions, with Accenture data pointing to 86% of aerospace and defense companies expecting to integrate blockchain technology into their corporate systems by 2021. Tristan Whitehead, CEO of Parts Pedigree—which is building its own blockchain-based platform for digitizing part records—told MRO Network last year that he thinks an independent approach will be preferred to blockchain solutions built and managed by OEMs, which “do not solve the problems of the smaller guys in the supply chain.”
According to a spokesperson for FLYdocs, the new platform will differ from existing blockchain solutions on the market because it is a non-OEM solution that will not rely upon a traditional fee-based structure to make money. “It will be able to track parts and ownership, but more importantly, it is a sharing platform for operators who would like the benefits of access to big data without being told they have to buy it from an OEM or a service provider,” explains the spokesperson. “The blockchain component is just a way to get everyone reading off the same sheet music. Once that is achieved through mass adoption, optical character recognition capabilities will allow for [a] substantial data analytics program.”
FLYdocs CEO Andre Fischer says the platform will help airlines reduce the working hours it typically takes to comply with lease and ownership transitions. “Even more interesting, however, are the analytical implications of having consistent, shared and protected data anonymously presented on a common platform and available to airlines at no cost,” says Fischer. “While airlines remain in control, it provides them with a wider choice between competing solutions as the anticipated open platform environment will enhance competition of data analytics.”
Fischer says he expects airlines and data analysts will use the new platform to drive significant efficiency gains in maintenance, safety and aircraft security over the next decade.
WLFC and FLYdocs are working with IT service management company United Data Technologies to develop the platform and the companies say they may open the pilot up to more partners as development continues. According to the companies, technology partners who join the project could take advantage of potential benefits such as complimentary use of services and influencing the product roadmap.
The companies expect to complete the pilot program by May and are targeting early fall for bringing a product to market.