We often don’t take time to think about it, but aviation has transformed our world in ways once unimaginable. It has brought people and entire cultures together; it’s revolutionized how we get the food we eat and the products we need. It has fundamentally changed society and the world’s economy. And this transformation is continuing even today.
November is National Aviation History Month, and it’s the perfect time to consider not only where flight has taken us in the past, but where it will move us in the future. Consider some key milestones: in 1903, the Wright brothers built and flew the first controlled, powered airplane. In 1914, the first commercial airline flight took place. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first successful flight across the Atlantic. And the British Overseas Airways Corporation launched the first commercial jet flight in 1952.
In the 21st century, the movement of people and goods by air has reached incredible heights. According to the IATA, 4.1 billion passengers were carried on commercial flights with over 1,300 carriers in 2017. In the same year, $18.8 billion in goods were transported globally. All this travel and transport supported more than 65 million jobs worldwide in 2017.
But the story of innovation and advancement in aviation is far from complete. Many more chapters remain to be written, and they are being devised as you read this by governments, engineers, technology specialists, transportation companies, and logistics experts. For air travelers, technology is changing every part of the experience, from how we purchase tickets and track flights to the entertainment and information options available in-flight. In the future, experts predict that artificial intelligence, virtual reality and robotics will continue to improve the experience. In fact, these areas of focus are already helping airlines schedule crews, move baggage, and set prices.
At DHL Express, aviation is a central part of how we move goods at high speed to more than 220 countries and territories. We are continually adding new aircraft and upgrading our fleet. Consider that design advances are creating more efficient jets that can travel farther on less fuel and you will understand how change is an inevitable and essential part of aviation’s history and future. It’s also an essential part of our business. In the future, airlines and transportation companies will likely see entirely new designs, like the blended wing-body, that could significantly reduce fuel needs.
DHL has also added helicopter service in some of the busiest cities, and we are aggressively pursuing the use of drones to make deliveries faster and more efficient. Partnering with leading drone manufacturer EHang, we are working to develop fully automated and intelligent drone delivery solutions for China’s metropolitan areas. In a pilot project in Guangdong Province, average in-city delivery time was reduced from 40 minutes to just eight. The result is reduced energy consumption and lower costs. Ultimately drones can also be used to reach remote locations now inaccessible to delivery vehicles, and they can even be employed to manage and move inventory within warehouses.
In the past two decades, e-commerce has driven global trade into hyperdrive, allowing even the smallest companies to compete and profit on the world stage. But the success of e-commerce is entirely reliant on the earlier and ongoing triumph of aviation. When people order at lightning speed across fiber and wireless networks, they expect their products and deliveries to mirror that speed, something only possible with jets, helicopters and drones.
How is your business celebrating National Aviation History Month? How does aviation impact your business? Let us know on Twitter @DHLUS.