Aéro Montréal report encourages marriage of aerospace and AI

Aéro Montréal has teamed with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to author a report titled Aerospace and AI, outlining a potential marriage of Montreal’s aerospace and artificial intelligence (AI) industries, for both immediate and long-term value. The report was released at Aéro Montréal’s 2019 annual general meeting on May 17 and is a call-to-action, highlighting the potential hurdles the industry may face as it prepares to initiate a dedicated plan for further implementing AI in its business models.

Aéro Montréal and BCG report that Montreal's aerospace industry would be wise to further adapt AI into all levels of business. GE Photo
Aéro Montréal and BCG report that Montreal’s aerospace industry would be wise to further adapt artificial intelligence into all levels of business. GE Photo
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Aéro Montréal, Quebec’s aerospace think tank that represents decision-makers in Montreal’s aerospace sector, commissioned BCG to write the report to get a better grasp on the potential for AI in aerospace and to understand the industry’s current approach. The results could come as a surprise.

Although Montreal’s aerospace sector currently implements AI technology on a ground level, BCG reports that they are still vastly behind other industries in the shift. Using both the retail and automotive industries as an example, Aerospace and AI claims that the “aerospace industry is in the early stages of adoption,” and that companies risk falling behind competitors who are turning towards AI to optimize performance.

“Montreal’s unique position as an AI and aerospace hub make it ideally positioned to be at the forefront of the development AI in aerospace,” the report reads. “However, aerospace companies in Montreal have not yet fully embraced the potential of AI.”

This isn’t due to a lack of trying, though. The report shines a light on the industry’s structural inflexibility, making it difficult to adapt AI in the current business model. It points to significant regulations, complex supply chains, heavy capital expenditure and long business cycles as factors that tend to slow AI adoption within the aerospace industry.

Regardless, the wheels are in motion to merge the two worlds within Montreal, according to Aerospace and AI. Government agencies pledged $470 million to the development of AI in Quebec between 2016 and 2018, and the city is already the third-largest aerospace hub in the world.

It’s a good start, according to the report: “All the building blocks are in place for Montreal to become a success in aerospace AI, with some organizations and business leaders working to capitalize on the city’s strengths.”

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Where the city’s industries go from there will depend on how much active participation occurs at the individual business and industry level. The report says more companies need to be willing to push boundaries and adopt AI into their business models. Example include single-use applications like delays/missed connections management or end-to-end applications like a connected plane that can communicate with maintenance centres and airlines and provide updates.

Nearing the end of the report, BCG and Aéro Montréal call for top industry leaders from both sides to “establish a task force…a forum of major players,” noting it’s not only in the best interest of themselves but shareholders as well.

“Adoption and implementation of AI will significantly increase value for all aerospace stakeholders,” it reads. “We estimate a potential $3 to $4 billion in additional net present value over the next five years for the whole industry.”

While it may be some time before meaningful action is done to create that sort of revenue, the report doesn’t shy away from laying out the long term goal. The desired outcome, according to Aerospace and AI, is to “create sustainable economic and social value in the Montreal metropolitan area and contribute to the long-term prosperity of Canada’s aerospace sector.”

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