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Every year around 5 billion passengers are carried by the world’s airlines - and that number is growing. Driven by growing emerging markets combined with cheaper ticket prices than ever, demand for global air travel is on the up.
There are around 40,000 aircraft currently operating around the world, including military aircraft and business jets, and this number is set to double over the next two decades. The estimated value of new deliveries up until 2035 sits at around US$6.2 trillion, with an additional US$1.9 trillion in support and maintenance costs.
But it's not just aeroplanes that require investment in R&D. Aviation is known for the high complexity of its components, often subject to lengthy R&D programs which often qualify for R&D tax credits. The aviation industry as a whole necessitates the coming together of a broad range of innovative sectors, including mechanics, engineering, planning, IT, retail and communications.
So what exciting new developments are likely to occur in the coming years as a result of R&D in aviation? Here we take a look.
One of the first forays into airport biometrics has already been seen in the form of biometric passports. Most commonly referred to as ePassports, biometric passports contain a microchip which stores the user’s personal information in addition to their photograph. They were unveiled in the last decade as a way to help combat terrorism and identity theft, and for improving international border security. Biometric passports also allow for the use of ePassport gates at border control for faster entry into the holder’s destination country.
But R&D is allowing biometrics to hopefully offer even more than this, by providing customers with a safer, seamless and more desirable travel experience. In future, biometric technology will likely allow you to use your iris, your face or your fingerprint to identify yourself, not just at passport gates but during other times when passing through the airport. Imagine not having to show your passport in proving your age when buying your favourite tipple at duty free, or having to rummage for your boarding card in the WH Smith queue!
The possibilities for biometrics could well be extensive and far reaching; a welcome relief to travellers during what can be a stressful start to a journey.
Avionics is an umbrella term used to describe the electronic systems used in satellites, aircraft and spacecraft. These systems can be large and highly complex, handling a huge range of operations and functions, from anti-collision mechanisms to black boxes, communications and entertainment software.
Avionics is responsible for everything that goes on within an aircraft and is the “brains” of the outfit. It’s an industry which itself is going through a significant growth period, attracting a huge amount of innovative R&D investment. Safety - and money - are paramount, and avionics can in fact be more profitable than the original aircraft sale itself, thanks to long term maintenance and technological upgrade costs over time.
Over the last decade, demand for air travel has increased massively. Although the government welcomes aviation growth, pressure is increasing to make air travel greener, more efficient and more sustainable. Customers themselves are more aware than ever of the impact of climate change, and aircraft manufacturers are focussed on R&D that allows new generations of aircraft to become increasingly carbon neutral.
There are many opportunities for innovative R&D work when it comes to making air travel easier on the environment, from more energy efficient engines to improved fuel consumption. Increasingly, airlines, and the airports that serve them, are working on strategies to improve sustainability whilst still offering excellent service and value to customers.
Innovation is also taking place around developing the most efficient use of infrastructure, including terminal buildings and passenger facilities. For example, in June 2019 Dublin Airport made a landmark pledge to become net zero in its carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.
The systems used for slot allocation at airports across Ireland and the rest of the UK also attracts ongoing development work, with a view to reducing operational noise, increasing capacity and building resilience.
R&D work that considers residents living very near an airport’s perimeter, or directly under flight paths, is something that’s also a key concern. Although technology has moved on apace and aircraft have become quieter over the years, Dublin Airport still receives an average of 42 noise complaints from local residents and businesses per day.
Aircraft noise, like most other noise, is measured in decibels. Modern passenger liners are about 30 decibels quieter than previous iterations of aircraft of the same size. As a sound reduction of just 10 decibels can mean a person perceives as much as a 50% noise reduction (approximately), even a relatively small lowering of decibels can have a notable and positive impact. Obviously it’s pretty unlikely that jets will fly silently any time soon, but work continues to lessen the effects of engine noise on the local environment, especially with planes getting bigger and long haul travel increasing.
Whether your company is in aviation or any other sector, if work has been undertaken that aims to improve technical or scientific knowledge in your field then it may qualify for R&D Tax Credits.
Offered as a tax incentive by the Revenue, R&D Tax Credits are open to any Irish company of any size in any industry. Eligible projects and costs are purposefully broad so as many Irish businesses as possible can benefit.
R&D expenditure can produce a 25% tax credit to use against a company’s liability for Corporation Tax, in addition to the standard 12.5% deduction. This means that companies undertaking eligible R&D can apply for a refund from the Revenue of €37.50 for every €100 of R&D expenditure - a large amount of money to miss out on.
If you would like to find out more, talk to the R&D tax credit experts at Myriad Associates. With bases in Dublin and across the UK, our team is made up of highly experienced accountants and R&D professionals who will guide you through your claim.