The Aviation Industry's Love Affair with Crowd Sourcing

The Air transport industry has recently seen a flurry in open competitions that merge brand development with the idea that the crowd might have the next breakthrough in mind. Let's go for a brief summary of what is currently done in this field.

The Airbus Fly Your Idea challenge

Airbus said more than 2,600 students have registered for the second biennial Fly Your Ideas contest that challenges university students from around the world to develop new ideas for a greener aviation industry. Students of 75 nationalities made up the 315 teams that entered the first round, a 40% increase compared to the first year of the competition in 2009.

Of the 315 teams representing 287 universities, 84 have been selected to advance to Round 2. Five teams with the most exciting projects will be chosen in May and advance to the FYI final with the winner to be announced at the Paris Air Show in June. The winning team will take away a €30,000 first prize with the runner-up receiving €15,000.

The Boeing 2008 Boeing Shanghai Challenge

The Boeing Shanghai Challenge, hosted by Boeing, Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services, Tsinghua University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, invited teams of students from across China to prepare "green" concepts for the Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services MRO operation.

More than 35 teams from 10 top universities and five aeronautical universities in China participated. The entries were judged on creativity of solution, technical feasibility, depth and completeness of technical analysis, and clarity of presentation.

The Amadeus Brighter, Bolder, Better Ideas for Travel

"At Amadeus we aspire to be Brighter, Bolder, Better in everything we do. Our aim is to improve the travel experience and you can help make the difference. Remember, the greatest ideas can have the simplest beginning.

Participate in our "Brighter, Bolder, Better ideas for travel" competition and share your idea to make the travel experience Brighter, Bolder, Better. Amadeus will reward the best ideas with up to € 20,000 to help you make your idea happen."

- Text from the competition website :

To get to know their system, I posted an idea myself which is entitled "An Intelligent Natural Language Booking System" : (Do not hesitate to vote for it since I would really like it to come true and I will study in the field of computational linguistics to be able to work on the matter!)

What does these moves suggest?

Networking and creating facebook/twitter events are the new buzzwords in advertisement. Theses campaigns have the merit of developping brand awareness for business to business companies (Airbus and Boeing are aircraft manufacturers and Amadeus is a GDS provider) that would otherwise never be known by the average consumer and traveler.

It is also a good way to boost recruitment of young engineers and scientists. For its part, AMADEUS is currently hiring many programmers. Many Engineer students from the ENAC (Mostly from the Computer Science and Civil Aviation Majors) have been contacted for a training period in Sophia Antipolis where the company's headquarters are based. Wages are impressive compared to what cash strapped airlines have to offer. Showing an open mindedness in looking for ideas and a presence on social networks is a good bet to lure the new generation.

Beyond that, it is interesting to point out that the Airline industry has been pretty stable in its business for the past decades. It is true that Low Cost Companies have been a disruptive force, but they fly exactly the same planes as Legacy Airlines. And many people notice that airplanes are looking a lot more alike nowadays : Russian Sukhoi 100, European A350 and American B787, Chinese C919 all have the same fuselage and wings!The last truly different technology was the Concorde which provided supersonic travel. The return on investment in research on how to reach perfection in the current airliner is getting lower and lower. And many new challenges arise. What will fly when there won't be any more oil?

These are all state of the art air planes by different manufacturers
 (Bombardier, Comac, Embraer, Sukhoi, Airbus, Boeing). Spot the difference!
To this great question, the best R&D labs in the Industry are as likely to come up with the IDEA as the average joe. FYI, BBB and BSC might be as many aknowledgements of that shift in how quantum leaps are made.

By Thibaut Labarre (student at the ENAC National School for Civil aviation)


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