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British Airways' parent group books Satavia's flying service

Satavias founder and CEO Dr Adam Durant at Eagle Labs in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Satavias founder and CEO Dr Adam Durant at Eagle Labs in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Aviation sector saves cash on big data analysis

The Satavia team at Eagle Labs in Cambridge, with founder/CEO Dr Adam Durant seated centre. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Satavia team at Eagle Labs in Cambridge, with founder/CEO Dr Adam Durant seated centre. Picture: Keith Heppell

The aviation sector is set to become more financially and environmentally efficient as Satavia’s decision intelligence technology is adopted by carriers.

The Cambridge firm’s airlines solution combines and validates multiple environmental, weather and aircraft datasets. The outcome optimises inspection and overhauls schedules, improves fuel and safety efficiency, and mitigates against the impact of atmospheric contaminants.

With no rivals in sight, the Barclays Eagle Labs-based company is able to analyse years of historic data in days, to deliver insight into flight operations and maintenance.

“We track aircraft flight by flight, monitoring exposure to airborne contaminants such as dust and air pollution,” says founder and CEO Dr Adam Durant. “For the planned maintenance on any given engine, we combine our data with the engineering data, with savings of up to 20 per cent.”

Issues begin when an engine is exposed to dust, sulphur, ice or volcanic ash, accelerating wear of engine and airframe components, and possibly posing a threat to flight safety. For the industry, these problems mean unscheduled maintenance.

The annual cost of environment-related impacts on aviation is challenging to quantify, but is in the billions of dollars. In 2016 sulphur, found in both air pollution and jet fuel, damaged turbine components in engines powering an ANA Dreamliner aircraft and cost Rolls-Royce more than £64million in unscheduled maintenance in the context of ‘power-by-the-hour’ services.

“The airline industry tries to avoid unscheduled maintenance which costs at least £100 a minute per aircraft,” says Dr Durant. Satavia’s cloud-based big data platform can provide the insights to reduce fuel burn, make better predictions of how much reserve fuel is needed, and find more efficient ways to reduce icing, all of which save the airline money.

Satavia has been working with Rolls-Royce for the last 18 months, and this week was selected to join International Airlines Group’s (IAG) Hangar 51 accelerator. More than 400 companies applied, and Satavia is one of just 10 to have been selected for the programme, based at IAG’s Waterside headquarters in Heathrow.

IAG is one of the world’s largest airline groups. The firm has 546 aircraft flying to 279 destinations and carries more than 105 million passengers each year. IAG is the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Level, Vueling, IAG Cargo and Avios.

“We are diversifying our customer base and have other OEMs lined up,” says Dr Durant. “We’re moving into the airline business with IAG, we’re looking to partner with them and extend the offer to other airlines.

“The only limiting factor in aviation is getting access to data – it’s a highly protected environment, and it takes months to build a relationship.”

As part of its mission to increase operating margins and cut the aviation industry’s environmental footprint, Satavia has located its servers in Iceland, where the volcanoes are still active.

“Our servers are almost carbon-neutral, they use cool Icelandic air and geothermal energy, which is where you drill a bore hole into the earth’s crust and the water comes out hot, and the steam drives the turbines.”

The company has received £1.5million grant funding from the ATI, Innovate UK and the European Space Agency, and has won a number of awards including being a finalist in the Duke of York’s Pitch@Palace 6.0, SVC2UK CEO Summit, featured in the 2017 Disrupt100 list, and most recently as a finalist in the Barclays 2018 Entrepreneur Awards.

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