During the last decade, the aerospace industry has undergone a great transformation. It has witnessed countless disruptive innovations that have materialized and laid the foundation for future developments that are already on the horizon.
The application of multisectoral technologies such as 5G, advanced satellite systems, 3D printing, Big Data, quantum technology, among others, has allowed to update and scale the activity of operations in the air and space. Operations that were previously considered impossible.
Aeronautics innovation includes atmosphere and outer space activity developments. Aerospace engineering consists of aeronautics and astronautics, where aerospace organizations research, design, manufacture, operate or maintain aircraft and spacecraft.
Consider that many of these sector developments have been pioneers for the later application in other branches and that many of them are now improving many business sectors and daily life. The weather forecast, GPS or satellite television are examples that depend fundamentally on space infrastructure.
On the other hand, trends in space technology (SpaceTech) are gaining ground. Combining the increase in this industry private investments and the emerge of companies focused on this sector developing new technologies that facilitate movement, operations and communications between the earth and space.
Similarly, aviation is a branch that is accelerating the technology industry rate. An important motivation to improve the way airplanes operate is strongly driven by geopolitics. Let’s not forget that aviation has the power to turn friends into enemies and vice versa.
The aerospace industry pollinates sectors towards innovation
The aerospace sector over time has traditionally been seen as one of the greatest instigators of technological change. In disciplines such as engineering, electronics, communication, the use of new materials such as metals and plastic compounds, as well as the development of more efficient and sustainable energy systems.
The aerospace industry has a strong influence on manufacturing process innovation. It serves as a testing scenario for broader developments within automation, assembly, and inspection. Aircraft manufacturing is an example of systems and assembly’s complexity, that when solved, have great implications on many other sectors.
3 trends in aerospace innovation.
Three trends that, by observing them closely and following their development, can give us the guidelines towards where innovations are headed in other sectors.
Electric aircraft development
Fuel is one of the largest costs associated with maintaining operations, which is raising the interest of the sector to reduce it as much as possible, for environmental and cost reasons. One way is the quest towards more electric airplanes (MEA) development, although not in its entirety, but as a first step development.
In the long term, it is envisioned to fully achieve electric airplanes (AEA) although the process is complex.
- Airbus since 2010, is one of the companies committed to the creation of an electric motor zero-emissions aircraft. https://www.airbus.com/innovation/zero-emission/electric-flight.html
- In this 45-minute documentary, we can see all the electric airplanes development and research so far.
Autonomous flight systems
Autonomy is a trend in most industries in recent years. The aerospace industry is no exception. Much of the initiatives are focused on autonomous flights, seeking to launch flights completely free of human piloting.
Although it is not yet a reality, soon we will be able to see flights reduced to a single pilot, to reach the point of being able to make trips without any type of crew. This has already been achieved by drones, although the technology has not yet been harnessed for application in larger airplanes and longer trips.
- Ehang 216: The first 100% autonomous drone-taxi with human passengers. It is presented as the new generation of flying taxis that are safe, environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. This project has the power to revolutionize the urban mobility sector.
Of the most complex aspects of the aerospace industry are those related to maintenance, repairs, and operations. This has escalated, such as costs, as technology has become more advanced.
Thanks to data simulation, airlines can better plan and anticipate their maintenance and avoid repairs. It can help predict when problems will arise and avoid them in time.
- On aerospace innovation, numerical and data simulation support developers to test initiatives that would otherwise be impossible or incredibly expensive. The introduction of quantum computing will be the definitive accolade for the explosion of numerical simulation, allowing aircraft design completely by digital model technologies.
Without a doubt, innovation in the aerospace industry is picking up its pace. How aviation operates in all its areas is being improved to meet new government, market, and consumption needs. We are at one step of discovering new ways to conquer space, to travel better and broaden our horizons towards technologies that we do not yet know. We look forward to a future with great challenges and opportunities.