Smart flying – on the future of aviation
Bernhard Randerath is a renowned expert in the aviation industry with over 30 years of experience working with leading companies such as Lufthansa, Airbus and Etihad Airways. In 2011, he took over the position of Vice President, Design, Engineering and Innovation at Etihad Aviation Group in Abu Dhabi. We had the opportunity to talk to Randerath about his work in the Emirates, latest technological innovations and the future of flying.
You’ve been working in the aviation industry for many years; first in Europe and the U.S., and now in Abu Dhabi. What has impressed you most so far about your work in the Emirates?
People here laugh more and are friendlier to each other. Nevertheless, working in the Emirates should not be taken lightly. It is very important to build up a network in the region, to show great commitment, to deliver excellent results and to make a name for yourself that stands for high quality. Once you have earned a good reputation and established a relationship of trust, you will be heard, you will be able to develop and advance your own ideas. I really enjoy working here!
Etihad Engineering, together with SCHOTT, Lufthansa Technik and jetlite, announced at the Dubai Air Show in November 2019 that they will be collaborating in the field of Human Centric Lighting. Why is this topic important to you?
Etihad as an airline has a strategic geographic position as many flights from America or Europe to Asia-Pacific include a stopover in the Emirates, where one of the safest airports is currently located. This hub is receiving tremendous government support – Abu Dhabi is soon to build the world’s third-largest airport and Dubai is massively expanding its airport.
More and more long-haul flights are passing through our region. It is becoming increasingly important for passengers to arrive relaxed. We spoke with other airlines and with local medical associations to examine what the body needs to feel at ease. Many components influence the feeling of well-being on board: good service is one of them, but so is good light, which is very important for humans. Depending on how we control the light on board, it can make a massive contribution to ones well-being.
How do the cooperation partners actually work together?
It is important to understand exactly how Human Centric Lighting works. We have to develop the topic together but we also have to test it extensively. This is where the four companies in the consortium fit together very well: jetlite supplies the software that controls the light. SCHOTT offers extremely high quality lightthat not only functions statically, but also dynamically, meaning that it can “run” through the cabin in a swinging effect. Lufthansa Technik takes care of the electronics and implementation. And we at Etihad Engineering provide a test plane on which we carry out the important certifications.
What should we expect from the cabin of the future?
First of all, we have to look at how we use the cabin today. Today’s cabin is not intelligent – it consists of individual parts that don’t communicate with each other: all components such as seats, toilets, galleys exist separately and are operated and maintained independently of each other with a lot of effort. The goal must be to build a smart cabin that shows us the status of the individual components, reports necessary repairs or provides options for predictive maintenance. In this field, we are working together with Boeing on a research project. Etihad Engineering tested its “intelligent and smart cabin, i+sCabin” for the first time at the end of 2019 in Boeing’s 777 flying testbed, the ecoDemonstrator, and achieved promising results.
How will passengers benefit from the smart cabin?
As soon as the cabin is connected, this concept can then be transferred to the passenger. Our data scientists collect information from passengers on their preferences and behavior patterns – with their permission, of course. Our researchers cluster and label the data in order to identify trends, build appropriate tools and offer customized services. This is what we call individual digitalization. This is the only way we can truly fulfill our passengers’ wishes and ultimately build an important emotional bond between airline and passenger. We are working on this as part of a major project “Etihad Airways – Choose Well”!
Let’s look into the near future. What would you still like to change in the cabin in 2020 at the push of a button?
I would like to fly in an intelligent cabin for the first time this year. Each supplier provides the appropriate interface for this cabin so that maintenance, crew and passengers can successfully use our smart system.