Aircraft Sensors – A Pivotal Component Ensuring Passenger Safety and Development of Next-gen Aircraft

On October 29, 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by the Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Another Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed on March 10, 2019, killing all 157 passengers and crew. The main reason for both accidents was false data provided by faulty angle-of-attack aircraft sensors.

MarketsandMarkets™ View Point:

Syed Haidar Ali, Senior Analyst, Research: Aerospace and Defense at MarketsandMarkets™, shares his views:

Boeing is synonymous with the aviation industry, as it has held the maximum market share since the last few decades. The company is known for manufacturing commercial aircraft used by airlines around the globe. Boeing has a presence in more than 65 countries and operates through 4 business units, namely, commercial airplanes; defense, space & security; global services & support; and Boeing Capital.


Aircraft sensors are core integral components used in instrumentation systems of aircraft. Instrumentation systems used in aircraft capture information about the condition of aircraft engines, various aircraft components, altitude of the aircraft, weather conditions, and cabin environment and convey it to the crew and pilots. Key aircraft sensors include pressure sensors, temperature sensors, force sensors, potentiometers, torque sensors, speed sensors, position & displacement sensors, proximity sensors, level sensors, flow sensors, switch sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers, among others. Some of the key aircraft sensor manufacturers are UTC Aerospace Systems (US), Honeywell International Inc. (US), TE Connectivity Ltd. (Switzerland), Zodiac Aerospace (US), Meggitt Plc. (UK), Safran Electronic & Defense (France), Ametek, Inc. (US), Curtiss-Wright Corporation (US), Esterline Technologies Corporation (US), Thales Group (France), and The Raytheon Company (US), among others.

The rise of smart Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication through the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be a key trend in the aircraft sensors market in the coming years. IoT leverages the data generated from various sensors in an aircraft to monitor aircraft health, enable predictive maintenance, monitor assets, and use data analytics programs to optimize aircraft operations to ensure high efficiency and improve safety. However, the recent crash incidents of Boeing’s best-selling 737 MAX 8 aircraft due to wrong data provided by the angle of attack sensors have made it imperative that next-generation failproof sensors are developed.



Source: MarketsandMarkets™ Analysis

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by the Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea 12 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew members. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed, causing 157 fatalities. Both aircraft crashed due to the same problem—a faulty sensor. These incidents have resulted in the grounding or banning of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 by 50 countries, including the US, China, and Australia.

Boeing realizes the gravity of the situation and has suspended deliveries of the model to focus on software certification to ensure passenger safety. This move has resulted in a decline in Boeing’s production rate from 52 airplanes per month to 42 airplanes per month. Moreover, the company’s Board of Directors is expected to establish a committee to evaluate company-wide policies and processes for the design and development of airplanes. Though this is a temporary situation for Boeing, the decline in production rate can compromise the company’s market share.

According to MarketsandMarkets™, the aircraft sensors market is expected to be valued at USD 2.25 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 6.01% from 2017 to 2022. Another emerging market is the aircraft health monitoring system market, which is projected to reach USD 5.43 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 7.77% from 2018 to 2023. Similarly, the market for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in aviation was valued at USD 112.3 million in 2017 and is projected to reach USD 2,222.5 million by 2025, at a CAGR of 46.65% during the forecast period.


These tragic incidents have raised questions about the safety practices of Boeing and the FAA. Aircraft sensor manufacturers need to reevaluate current safety procedures and ensure rigorous quality checks before aircraft are brought into commercial use. Moreover, software certification requirements are expected to be updated to be on par with evolving technologies. Aircraft manufacturers, such as Airbus, Embraer, and Bombardier, among others, are expected to focus on integrating sensors that ensure maximum safety by delivering accurate data in real-time, which would provide them with the much-needed competitive advantage in the industry.


The aircraft sensors market has been growing at a significant rate, and this growth is expected to continue in the near future as well. The major drivers for the growth of the aircraft sensors market include the increasing demand for new aircraft, rising investments by private equity groups in various aircraft sensor firms, and declining price of sensors due to the introduction of various new sensor technologies, such as Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS). The market also presents several growth opportunities for aircraft sensor manufacturers due to the increasing use of Internet of Aircraft Things in the aviation industry.

The main challenge faced by Boeing is that of maintaining its leadership in the industry while gaining the loyalty of its customers. Additionally, the company is expected to face severe challenges from its competitors who will take advantage of these incidents by leveraging their focus on passenger safety as their USP.

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