Air BP mis-fueling reduction.


The Brief:

Air BP is one of BP’s largest and most lucrative global divisions, generating billions of pounds in revenue annually. Every year, it fuels more than a million aircraft at hundreds of commercial and industrial airfields.

Air BP operates under the strictest of safety protocols, however, on average one aircraft every two years is incorrectly fuelled. This can lead to the disastrous consequence of engines cutting out mid-flight. The main cause of misfuelling is human error.

So, Air BP, embarked upon a programme to eliminate this safety risk and briefed Somo to create a portable, easy to use mechanic to act as a fail-safe. The core objective was to eliminate misfuelling entirely and protect millions of lives.



The Challenge:

Due to the sheer size and range of BP’s airfleet, it wasn’t economically viable to add or change anything on the actual aircraft. Existing fuel and plane identifiers would need to be utilised in implementing the innovative series of procedures for fuel operators to follow. The core process was to check the correct fuel truck was matched to the correct aircraft.

The first phase of the project set out to determine which identifiers on the aircraft would be most suitable – the fuel decals or the registration plates. And which type of recognition technology would be the most robust – optical character recognition or augmented reality scanning.


The Discovery Phase

After rigorous field testing, the option of scanning the aircraft registration plates was eliminated due to the huge number of variables seen within the plates. Everything from font style, size, materials and number of characters varied wildly across the fleet. The fuel decals were a more reliable identifier. Augmented reality (AR) was chosen as the preferred technology due to its use of a continuous camera view input and ability to search more than 100 known images to find a match. Optical character recognition would be triggered if AR could not determine a match within a pre-set amount of time. The intensive testing Somo carried out provided never before seen levels of insight into these technologies. This insight was released as a whitepaper to help educate the rest of BP into the opportunities and limitations of these technologies.


The Solution

Somo designed and developed the ground-breaking pilot Android application that utilised augmented reality decal scanning software and a physical fuel lock. Fuelling operators open the application and scan the decal on the side of their fuel truck, then proceed to scan the decal located near the fuel cap of the aircraft itself. If there is a successful match, the fuel hose physically unlocks. If there is no match, the operator is forced to manually override the application, by triple checking there is a match between the fuel and plane. Android was chosen due to the lower costs of providing devices to the operators. The app was initially rolled out to 5 airfields around the globe, allowing the operators to ‘train’ the software in the field by scanning hundreds of decals. The images were fed back to Somo’s technical architects to improve the accuracy of the software.

The Results

Somo’s misfuelling prevention app, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, was a very high profile project within BP. The application has added a much needed layer of security to the company’s refuelling process. Following a hugely successful pilot, the app is now being rolled out to Air BP’s hundreds of airfields around the globe, ensuring misfuelling never occurs again and ultimately protecting millions of lives.



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