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4 June, 2019 - 23:28 By Jamie Quested

OKRA putting the AI into AvIation

OKRA Loubna aviation

Cambridge-based AI specialist OKRA Technologies has jetted into a global initiative to look at leveraging artificial intelligence for the aviation sector.

OKRA CEO Dr Loubna Bouarfa delivered a keynote at the inaugural Aviation Artificial Intelligence Conference in Brussels which drew more than 400 leaders from across the European aviation community.

The conference was organised by EUROCONTROL – an intergovernmental organisation with 41 Member and 2 Comprehensive Agreement States – in collaboration with Airbus, to exchange views on AI for aviation.

Revenues for AI are growing exponentially and are expected to reach $31 billion by 2025. AI offers great opportunities for aviation in the areas of safety, ATM, airport operations, passenger experience and airlines.

EUROCONTROL is building a ‘Single European Sky’ designed to deliver the air traffic management performance required for the 21st century and beyond.
Other keynote speakers were Marc Fontaine, digital transformation officer at Airbus and Lucilla Sioli, director for Artificial Intelligence and digital industry at DG CONNECT.

Eamonn Brennan, DG of EUROCONTROL said: “A few independent initiatives on AI are being implemented across the aviation industry – we saw some of them showcased during the Aviation and AI event here at EUROCONTROL. But this is not enough, we need to create an awareness to the advantage of everyone in the European value chain.

“As a result of this conference, EUROCONTROL has committed to working together with all the different parts of our industry and with EU bodies, to agree a common way forward that will allow us to take full advantage of the benefits offered by AI while managing the negative aspects and societal impacts.”

A panel of international experts chaired by Ray Pinto of DIGITALEUROPE comprised Francoise Soulie-Fogelman, member of the European Commission’s High-level Expert Group on AI, Daniel L. Chen, director of research at the CNRS, Graham Katz from IBM Watson, John Hurley, chief technical officer at Ryanair and Leonard Bouygues, head of flight operations at Loon LLC. They examined how AI was already being implemented across different sectors.

The closing panel, chaired by Florien Guillermet, executive director of the SESAR joint undertaking, discussed how AI could reshape aviation. Contributions to this panel came from Grazia Vittadini, chief technical officer of Airbus, Bruno Stoufflet, CTO at Dassault Aviation, Jean Ferré, VP Air Traffic Management at Thales and Andrew Taylor, chief solution officer Digital Tower at NATS.

OKRA’s Dr Bouarfa said: “A big barrier for AI technology adoption is the notion of trust. If you think about it, the aviation industry is already doing this.

“Pilots and autopilots are already working in tandem every day. In this way, pilots are an inspiring best practice role model for a successful relationship with technology.”

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