Future of Aviation

Mobility and its pillars of transport (air, inland and maritime) are at the very center of our socio-economic fabric. They underpin social connections and facilitate access to goods and services, including trade, jobs, health care and education. In today’s world, mobility by air, road and water is all about efficiencies, speed, interconnectivity and accessibility by all. However, this raises the issue about sustainability. The UN predicts that by 2050 two thirds of the world population will live in cities1. How can we adapt and enhance today’s already-stretched mobility system for it to respond to our expectations and increased demands? How can mobility be reinvigorated for it to be sustainable and support the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?


For a start, mobility actors should come together in a shared vision. This is where the World Bank-led Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) steps in. For the first time ever, the SuM4All provides the transport sector and its modes of transport with the opportunity to speak with one voice and jointly unpack a Roadmap of Actions that is tailored to countries and cities to implement on a voluntary basis. The SuM4All includes all modes of transport, including aviation. Aviation facilitates access to countries and cities, increases multi layered efficiencies in travel and makes safety and security in travel top priorities. The aviation sector is rapidly taking gender equality at heart.


In addition, innovation in technology and approaches (e.g. by redefining efficiencies in travel) are essential to redefining mobility. Cutting-edge technology, such as autonomous devices and ultralight materials, creates opportunities to transform the mobility system by enabling new business models and mobility services. Innovations abound in aviation, e.g. unmanned aircraft innovations; artificial intelligence; biometrics; robotics; block chain; alternative fuels and electric aircraft. Aviation is therefore ideally positioned to support the innovation discourse and its potential impacts on new mobility.


The World Economic Forum proposes that the deployment of these private sector and government innovations to address mobility challenges can contribute to an improved mobility landscape – if they are deployed in a coordinated and collaborative way that aims to optimize the entire transport system. Unfortunately to date, these efforts in many instances may be exacerbating transport issues, most notably by adding congestion and complexity while also creating inefficiencies between public and private modes of transport.


The TT19 session “Innovation in Aviation = Value Added for New Mobility” will showcase how aviation advances and transforms mobility and impacts development thanks to state-of-the-art technology, innovative solutions as well as new emerging types of transportation in aviation. The “innovation in aviation” debate will demonstrate that advancements in its sector have impact across industries and modes of transport. Achieving sustainable mobility will only be possible if all modes of transport work together to jointly address inefficiencies in the current transport system holistically, and assess the impact of and coordinate implementation of innovations.


In a little over a century, our industry has gone from learning to fly, to learning to fly faster, learning to fly further, learning to fly heavier planes, and now to having 100,000 plus commercial flights occurring around the world each and every day – representing over 400 departures per hour! Aviation has truly has been at the forefront of innovation to become one of the safest and most reliable modes of transportation in the world today. 


The volume of air traffic is surprising to some. Aircraft are taking off around the world at a rate of over 400 departures per hour – and that’s only scheduled commercial traffic.
Air transport takes people and cargo around the world, and like bees pollinating the world economy, air transport can have a tremendous impact on the social and economic development and sustainability of a region. 


Sharing and leveraging technology and best practices from aviation and all modes of transportation will help ensure the success and sustainability of the emerging mobility sector create trust by the public and become sustainable.


Within the 2030 Agenda framework, ICAO was identified as the custodian agency of the global indicator for Passenger and Freight Volumes, by Mode of Transport. ICAO monitors and provides data to measure the progress of States building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation.


The air transport industry is expanding and the future of aviation is a bright one.


In 2017, airlines worldwide carried around 4.1 billion passengers. They transported 56 million tonnes of freight on 37 million commercial flights. Every day, airplanes transport over 10 million passengers and around USD 18 billion worth of goods.


This indicates the significant economic impact of aviation on the world economy, which is also demonstrated by the fact that aviation represents 3.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) worldwide (2.7 trillion US dollars) and has created 65 million jobs globally.


Aviation provides the only rapid worldwide transportation network, generating economic growth, creating jobs, and facilitating international trade and tourism.


Aviation has become the enabler of global business and is now also being recognized by the international community as an essential enabler to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


The aviation sector is growing fast and will continue to grow. The most recent estimates suggest that demand for air transport will increase by an average of 4.3% per annum over the next 20 years.


If this growth path is achieved by 2036 the air transport industry will then contribute 15.5 million in direct jobs and $1.5 trillion of GDP to the world economy. Once the impacts of global tourism are taken into account, these numbers could rise to 97.8 million jobs and $5.7 trillion in GDP.


By mid-2030s no fewer than 200,000 flights per day are expected to take off and land all over the world. Imagine the first video again – but with twice as much traffic!


These figures are dazzling and reflect a dynamic sector - which is great.


And this growth is not limited to passenger traffic. We anticipate that cargo traffic in terms of tonnage – to continue to grow along a similar curve.


But the growing demand for air traffic also involves challenges, not least of which are the important logistical implications in and around airports to ensure the infrastructure is able to support this growth.


The main question revolves around how we can achieve growth in a responsible and therefore sustainable way.


As the industry plans to support a near doubling of passenger and cargo numbers by 2036, demand for pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers and other aviation-related jobs is expected to rise dramatically.  What is also certain is that innovations in technology and approaches will be needed to sustain this growth.




We also see that the aviation is becoming more accessible to the global population. This figure shows for each country, what percentage of the population lives within 100 km of an airport.


World wide – 51% of the population lives within 100 km of an International Airport – and 74% live within 100 km of any kind of airport.


So airspace is quickly becoming congested and air traffic is slated to double over the next two decades.
In addition to air space – we have to consider airports themselves. Airports are already built up around population centres and are already operating at high capacity.


The reality is that – in order to accommodate the forecast growth - drastic improvements and efficiencies for airports and air traffic management will need to be found. For this – we need innovation.


Aviation is already known as a driving force of global technology development and innovations.


Engines and aircraft become lighter, quieter and more efficient. Emerging technologies are reshaping with robotics, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, unmanned aircraft systems and the push for hybrid and electric airplanes – just to name a few.


Alternative fuels can significantly change the current scenario of aviation in support of the environmental protection. The vast investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data could be seen as a promising way of increasing safety, efficiency and sustainability. These technologies can help improve aviation infrastructure and airspace utilization.


And aviation is now going beyond mobility between continents and cities – it is starting to impact mobility within cities.


These innovations relate primarily to moving goods for now – but they will quickly become viable for moving people as well.

This wave of innovations in aviation will surely impact the wider transport sector as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These concepts show some examples of what the future has in store – from moving people to delivering packages – the innovations are truly amazing. 







If we want this future to become a reality - we need to ensure that everyone communicates and collaborates to make effective use of these innovations.


The future of mobility is literally taking off!

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