Delays Byte the Dust: GE Asks Big Data Mavens to Make Flying MoreEfficient

August 6, 2013

When New Zealand’s Queenstown airport switched on a new, data-based GE navigation system last year, the technology cut monthly cumulative delays from 2,400 minutes to just 200 minutes. Less holding pattern meant fewer gallons of fuel burned and lower emissions. The system, called Required Navigation Performance or RNP, relies on GPS signals rather than ground based beacons. It is an example of how airlines and airports can tap the power of data to improve operations.

GPS information is one of many data sets that can help. GE is now asking the large open community of data enthusiasts and coders to use big data sets like flight routes, weather, plane and airport system data, and design a solution that would maximize flight economics by telling the pilot the optimal route to fly a plane.

The challenge is the second leg of the GE Flight Quest, a contest seeking to fight flight delays with big data and software. GE designed the challenge in partnership with Kaggle and Alaska Airlines.

Developers and data scientists from 58 countries generated more than 3,000 submissions during the first phase, which ended in the spring. They were competing for a total prize pool of $250,000 in cash awards. One set of winners built a mathematical model that helps improve runway and gate arrival time estimates by as much as 40 percent over an industry benchmark.

Winners of the second phase will divide a total prize pool of $250,000. The contest is open now and the first deadline is set for late September. For more details please visit the Flight Quest site.