OCR in Document Management for Aviation Companies

According to discussions on the professional pilot forum PPRuNe, flying makes up a fourth of a pilot’s duties. The rest is paperwork. Besides pushing the panel buttons and navigating the airplane through the clouds, as we see in the cinema, a pilot should perform tons of calculation and analytics tasks, which require an extreme level of concentration. OCR software for aircraft makes things simpler. In this article, we shall discuss how optical character recognition can help aviation companies handle paperwork and why OCR and AI tools are essential to make flights easier and safer. Let’s get started! blog Image alt. name: OCR-processed aircraft report Source: https://www.aircraftit.com/articles/technical-records-making-them-work/?area=mro

How much paperwork do pilots do?

Before we dive into the benefits of OCR software for aircraft, let’s check how much paperwork pilots, in fact, do. The answer is a lot. blog Table: The Paperwork Pilots Do During the Flight Pilots prepare multiple reports pre-, during, and after the flights. Most of this information is an amalgamation of screen data, handwritten forms to fill in, and screen logs. All this is performed within a super-intense environment of a flight.

How do pilots merge automatization and manual reporting?

Besides using numerous digital tools, pilots still write a lot. Pilots believe that papers with important info in view make their jobs simpler. According to Simple Flying, having paper printouts requires less transitioning back and forth between screens as essential analysis is done.

As a result, tons of important flight-related data come in multiple formats. These are screen logs, paper print-outs with handwritten inscriptions, and manually filled-in forms.

The transitioning of this data into structured digitized reports is gruesome. Any airport worker responsible for record-keeping can prove that. Besides being labor-consuming, this process is prone to errors. Here is the point where OCR software for pilots steps in.

So, what is OCR software, and how can it help handle aviation paperwork?

Optical character recognition software explained.

The definition of optical character recognition is as follows: it is a kind of software that converts images, handwriting, PDFs, scans, and other visual objects into text.

Despite being around for a long time, the optical character recognition technology merged with AI offers previously unseen opportunities to make the swings between digital and printed or handwritten information seamless, optimized, and more productive.

Now, the aviation documentation can be scanned, structured and processed within hours, instead of days. For example all the flight papers can be processed with optical character recognition tools and then structured thanks to intelligent document processing.

Here’s the applications of optical character recognition for aviation documentatio:

  • OCR tools can capture the data from aviation documentation. Being ready to read both printed and handwritten data, they are perfect to bring flight reports to a digitized form.

  • Optical character recognition further extracts data to transform it the preferred format, like text or PDFs

  • The possibilities provided with intelligent document processing (IDP) tools, further allow to automatically group texts into topics, provide quick and reliable search inside documentation, archive data and do other manipulations, like extract specific information.

  • Further, IDP technology processes huge massives of historical data to trace trends and patterns. For example, AI-based OCR and IDP software can compare the fuel consumption reports during the last 10 years and make important improvement for the future.

Anyways, the implemetation of OCR and IDP is highly beneficial.

The benefits of OCR software for pilots

Since printed paper is an important part of an air company’s lifecycle, high-quality optical character recognition software is especially important. The introduction of OCR software for pilots brings seven immediate benefits that can be simply displayed in a Seven-S formula.

Seven-S stands for Storage, Standardization, Search, Saving, Sharing, Safety, and Scalability.

Storage: the use of optical character recognition scanners to digitize paper documents is nothing new. An airline company needs tons of data to be stored. The use of OCR for document management simplifies storing and managing huge amounts of essential technical data.
Standardization: There is no single standard for aircraft paperwork, which causes a lot of inconveniences, especially if an airline operates planes from different lessors and receives logs and technical documentation in different formats. OCR for documents, especially powered with AI, allows data to be automatically brought under different standards. It is possible to quickly reformat reports created in the fashion of a lesser company to your needs and vice versa.
Search: OCR technology enables Google-like search among digitized documents. You can quickly find the necessary flight information, like airworthiness if your data is scanned and stored properly.
Savings: cost savings are one of the most important benefits of using OCR for airlines. Usually, the check-up and digitalization of flight papers are performed by flight engineers, although that’s not their direct responsibility. Many companies hire third-party vendors to create digital copies of their documentation. Both ways are cost-hungry. At the same time, the implementation of OCR can cut unnecessary spending. It also cuts the cost of saving paper copies. According to the EASA report, storing a physical document for an aviation company costs 19EUR. Yet, storing a digitized one costs 3 EUR.
Sharing: an AI-powered OCR tool can quickly transform data with a pilot’s notes into the right format to share them in real time.
Safety: the high-quality digitalization of paper documents creates a backup to guarantee the air company’s liability. For example, if a company goes broke, it can be sold and brought back to market faster if all the documents are present. Moreover, the combination of OCR and AI creates conditions for safer document storage.
Scalability: for an air company to scale, an ability to quickly manage, send, and check documentation is important. Using OCR for aircraft paperwork makes vertical and horizontal scaling easier, which is especially important in recent years, as many companies had to scale down during COVID lockdowns and scale up when countries reopened their borders.

OCR and AI: The new era of OCR software for aircraft

Traditional OCR software is based on computer vision technology. Computer vision reads characters one by one and recognizes them as separate images. This brings a number of limitations. For example, traditional OCR software tools mix up the numeral “1” and the letter “I,” or “0” and “O.” Dirty fingerprints left on paper are sometimes rendered as stamps.
The next-generation OCR tools are equipped with artificial intelligence technology, most often with NLP and deep learning.
OCR and natural language processing: NLP technology uses probabilistic approaches to understand text context. This way, a program will not read the letter “I” as a numeral when it is in the middle of the word.
OCR and deep learning: Deep learning uses huge amounts of labeled data. Therefore, an AI-powered OCR tool has numerous variants of each character to recognize. It is more productive in reading unclear handwriting, multiple fonts, or rare alphabets. Yet, these are not the limitations of the OCR and AI merger. An important direction in this domain is the implementation of AI tools for data structuring. The majority of aircraft data are unstructured and come in different formats, like screen scans, printouts, handwritten notes, images, barcodes, etc. Therefore, modern OCR tools are trained to structure and categorize data for faster processing. The application of artificial intelligence in optical character recognition software is a new market that already promises a bright future.

If you are interested in how your company can benefit from OCR and AI, contact eNest for a free consultation and advice.

Our team will analyze your business problem and describe the solution variants, as well as calculate the future project cost and timeline. Book a call now!

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NorthWestern Univeristy, Illinois

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