A tie-up with a larger company made commercial sense for AeroTech, he says. “WSI is well set up to support the product, and through them we get access to other airlines, domestically and internationally.” WSI has also helped AeroTech weather the airlines' slow procurement cycle. “Big organizations take time to make decisions, which is a challenge for a small company that we have been able to withstand by teaming with WSI.”
Slow adoption has affected another AeroTech product, the E-Turb hazard-prediction algorithm for aircraft weather radars. “Airlines don't like to pay for software upgrades to radar they have already bought, so we are beholden to the rate of adoption of a new radar,” Robinson says.
In the case of TAPS, airline interest meant the company found itself having to establish the business case for the product of a research project. “We've developed a methodology to help airlines understand the cost of turbulence. They are already paying for it, but the cost is often buried,” he says. “When you start to identify the costs, you can implement procedures to avoid them—such as not inspecting aircraft when you don't need to because the turbulence was not severe enough. Or being aware of where the rough air is, so you don't spend money hunting for smooth air.”
Robinson emphasizes that AeroTech is focused on “bringing in data in the right way, at the right time, to help [customers] avoid the costs. We've been talking to the International Air Transport Association over the last couple of years. They are big on improving cost-avoidance, as they believe airlines can't cut their way back to profitability.”
AeroTech continues to pursue research. “We are developing a way to detect wake encounters. The business case is quite strong, particularly combined with dynamic spacing optimization, when aircraft timing and trajectory is based on ambient atmospheric conditions,” he says. Wake detection “is a way to ensure the level of safety is maintained as you optimize spacing to squeeze in a couple of extra flights.”