Airbus and UNESCO invite students worldwide to innovate for the future of aviation

08 September 2016


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The first round of Airbus’ global student competition, Fly Your Ideas, was launched this week, inviting students to create innovative ideas for real-world aviation challenges. The launch took place at Airbus’ headquarters in Toulouse, France, during an official visit by UNESCO’s Assistant Director General of Natural Sciences, Flavia Schlegel. Students have until 25 November 2016 to create a team and submit the Round 1 questionnaire, detailing their idea, including its origin, potential benefits and how it could be further developed.

The Airbus and UNESCO partnership, Fly Your Ideas, is designed to establish a strong and lasting relationship for the development of the next generation of innovators. The competition offers a unique opportunity for students worldwide, working in diverse teams of 3-5 members to develop valuable employability skills, including teamwork, project management, communications and presentation skills. Teams’ interaction with Airbus experts through dedicated online communities mirrors the real-world learning environment of today’s interactive, digital classrooms.

UNESCO shares Airbus’ ambition to inspire young people to innovate for sustainability and pursue careers in science and engineering. “We need more young people both men and women, from every background and of every profile to acquire the skills the world needs to solve our greatest global challenges, as well as realize the potential of new opportunities”, says Flavia Schlegel. “With Fly Your Ideas 2017, student teams are working towards prototyping their ideas and gaining a thorough understanding of how to tackle real-world challenges through a rich learning experience.”

Airbus Executive Vice President Engineering and Fly Your Ideas sponsor, Charles Champion affirmed that, “At Airbus, we want to encourage the next generation of innovators to apply their most creative thinking to tackling the real-world problems and developing future opportunities for the aviation industry. For this edition of the competition, Airbus employees identified specific challenges that we are asking students to address. Our experts will engage with students online to help them fine-tune their proposed concepts, as they test, visualise and prototype their innovative solutions.”

The 5 Challenges for the 2017 edition were selected by over 400 Airbus employees. Students need to come up with an innovative idea to address one of the following questions:

  • Business models: What else could be done with aircraft other than transportation?
  • Flight operations: How can big data be used to improve efficiency of flight operations?
  • Passenger experience: How can new processes or layouts ease passenger boarding and disembarking, whilst increasing capacity for luggage?
  • Design engineering: How can artificial intelligence support aircraft design and/or manufacturing?
  • Manufacturing: How can manufacturing be disruptively improved to reduce waste and ensure the sustainability of resources?

Since Fly Your Ideas’ launch in 2008, more than 15,000 students have registered to participate, from over 600 universities in more than 100 countries worldwide. Students must register as a team of three to five members on and must be supported by an academic mentor. They are encouraged to include a diverse mix of team members from different profiles, nationalities and disciplines – every winning team to date has combined a diverse mix of students and this is a powerful example of how diversity can be a driver of innovation and performance, in the classroom as well as within industry. Round 1 closes on November 25 2016.

The 50 teams selected for Round 2 get significant input and guidance from Airbus mentors to develop their idea into a detailed project. Five teams are selected for Round 3 where students are asked to test, prototype or visualise their solutions. Finally the teams present their projects to an expert jury at the final event in May 2017, where the winning team wins a prize of €30,000 and the runners up €15,000.

UNESCO and Airbus representatives launch the 2017 Fly your Ideas Competition
UNESCO and Airbus representatives launch the 2017 Fly your Ideas Competition
© AIRBUS S.A.S. photo by Master Films /A. Doumenjou