Airbus has an internal project to improve the supply of spare parts for the A380. It is called Prometheus A380 and uses artificial intelligence.
Airbus has only mentioned the project publicly twice so far. Not in a press release, social media post, or website overview. It is hidden in the 413-page Annual Report for 2022 and the 217-page Board of Directors Report for 2022. A sentence that can be found in the Artificial Intelligence section.
There we talk about “an artificial intelligence project called “Prometheus A380,” which aims to improve spare parts management for the A380 aircraft.” This is an example provided by Airbus without going into deeper details. But what's behind that?
“Effective spare parts strategy for the Airbus A380”
“Prometheus is an internal project that uses advanced analytics to identify and recommend an effective spare parts strategy for the Airbus A380,” the European aircraft manufacturer explained when asked by aeroTELEGRAPH.
“This program has already enabled Airbus to evaluate the full range of aircraft structural materials installed on A380 aircraft in all configurations, within a short period of time.” This helped identify the most critical parts and “the parts that Airbus needs to ensure maintenance solutions for our customers over the next few decades.”
Prometheus even takes raw material risks into account
Specifically, according to Airbus, this structural material consists of approximately 750,000 removable parts that make up a structural part of the aircraft. Which of these parts is most important for maintenance depends on factors such as cost of the parts, lead time, complexity of replacement and risk of raw material shortages during production. Artificial intelligence takes all of this into account in its calculations and recommendations.
The Prometheus A380 is part of the Airbus Skywise data platform, which the company once developed in collaboration with the American company Palantir. It receives data from more than 10,000 aircraft around the world every day. Airbus and the airlines that choose Skywise are learning from this data. Prometheus belongs to the highest development level called Skywise Core X³, including machine learning, supplemented by artificial intelligence.
“For smaller fleets, predictions are more difficult.”
“Prometheus was developed to manage the global inventory of spare parts for the A380 programme,” explains David Marty, responsible for digital solutions sales at Airbus. “We support fleets all over the world and have to distribute parts efficiently.”
Although Prometheus can also be used for other aircraft models, the software is particularly important for the jumbo jet, as the global A380 fleet is not nearly as large as the A320 fleet. “For smaller fleets, predictions are much more difficult,” Marty explains. Because: less data, less accurate forecasts.
The right part at the right time in the right place
Using Skywise and Prometheus, Airbus can more accurately predict which spare parts need to be replaced and when. This allows the company to more accurately determine where and when to store the part so that it is actually used and not taking up storage space at one end of the world for years but eventually being needed at the other.
Prometheus is also of particular interest to the superjumbo due to the dimensions of the A380. “Stowing the cover on an A380 is more difficult than stowing it on an A320,” says Marty, for example. A380 parts tend to be larger, require more storage space and therefore incur higher costs. If they are stored in a place that will not be used for a long time, this is especially annoying. Prometheus is supposed to prevent that.
Prometheus thinks about the future
Even if Airbus itself does not go into details about the name of the project: Prometheus is a character from Greek mythology – and the name means “one who thinks about the future.”
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