The COVID crisis has created many challenges for the aviation sector. Slowly but surely, the industry is successful, but it’s not without the help of innovators like Collins Aerospace. Simple Flying sat down (in effect, of course) with Le Ann Ridgeway, Vice President and General Manager of IMS at Collins, to find out what the company was doing and what would happen next.
Collins has rapidly shifted its focus to medical technology to support the aerospace industry.Photo: Collins Aerospace Spurring Innovation
Due to the occurrence of COVID, aerospace hoisting occurred. Despite the sporadic eruptions of infectious diseases in the past, nothing has spread with the very vitality and lethality of COVID. The industry was completely unprepared for this situation, with 95% of the world’s fleet stranded, an unprecedented financial crisis, and almost complete air travel ceased.
Despite the initial shock, the sector is slowly but surely bouncing back. And it does so with the help of many new technologies and innovations. One of the leading companies in the development of these COVID combat tools is Raytheon Technologies’ Collins Aerospace. A leader in everything from seating to defense, Collins is now making a rapid shift to medical technology.
Simple Flying has caught up with LeAnn Ridgeway, Vice President and General Manager of Information Management Services at Collins Aerospace, to learn about some of the initiatives the company is involved in.
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Much of Collins’ current work is far from the comfort zone of the company. LeAnn discussed the innovations that come from the company, from antibacterial coatings on the surface to rapid COVID testing. Much of this is new to the company, but Collins’ challenge is unacceptably happy.
Touchless check-in is just one of the Collins Aerospace projects.Photo: Collins Aerospace
Collins has a project of all shapes and sizes that foam on the stove of that saying. A touchless kiosk for travelers, airport management software to avoid queues and bottlenecks, and UV disinfection solutions are on the list. Some of these issues were in the Collins pipeline, but others are entirely new.
The roadmap included mobile controls and contactless kiosks, but they were quite far away. We had to move some projects forward and accelerate. But other things like UV disinfection and antibacterial surfaces weren’t on the pre-COVID roadmap. Who thought our company was involved in all kinds of COVID rapid inspections?
The company is also working on touchless toilets.Photo: Collins Aerospace
Whether in the comfort zone or not, Collins has the mantle of overcoming the crisis with both hands. And it’s not just a COVID-specific solution. LeAnn explained,
COVID can be resolved, but as evidenced by MEARS, SARS, etc., COVID is probably not the last pandemic. So what we are doing is to approach systematically and consider what we can put in. It’s a place that not only helps our industry today, but also prepares us for future success.
One of the most interesting areas of research today, both in terms of COVID and passenger experience, must be biometrics. A touchless journey with our face as a passport is becoming a reality, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg of this technology. LeAnn told me,
I’m really excited about what biometrics can do. Increase operational efficiency. There was a strong business case before COVID, but now we have the potential to do more.
Future biometrics may include checking for other biomarkers.Photo: Emirates
She explained that Collins is considering integrating other biomarkers into airport technology. In addition to things like temperature screening, which is a component of COVID safety, there are also new means such as respiratory rate and heart rate.
All of these improve not only COVID, but also the speed at which a person can catch other respiratory illnesses before boarding an airplane.
Without a doubt, COVID was a learning experience for all of us. Perhaps in the future, becoming more active in screening for diseases will prevent this type of disaster from reoccurring on this scale. Collins is laying a solid foundation for the future with the work he is doing now.
Solving today’s problems will create a more robust tomorrow.Photo: Collins Aerospace
Whether the vaccine arrives or something else happens to eliminate the COVID risk, all this investment and innovation will help protect the world in the future. LeAnn summarized it when she said,
I am excited about the possibilities of the data for this day. And I think it comes with challenges. But I am excited about all the good things that can bring about the health and safety of the planet.
COVID has blown the wind out of the aviation sector today, but the concept of building better is stronger than ever. I was excited to see what happened to the new normal of air travel.
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