Aerospace as we know it is very diverse. There’s a multitude of applications from military to industrial and commercial activity. With aerospace engineering, there are a lot of industry trends that are shaping the way engineers are creating and manufacturing the aircrafts of tomorrow. So what new trends are developing in 2021?
Based on the minds of thought leaders, customers and engineers, there are certain changes and developments that we can expect to see in the aerospace industry.
In this article, we’ll share four trends in the aerospace industry that every engineer in today’s world should know.
How has the pandemic affected the Aerospace industry?
Before diving into the trends, it’s worth mentioning that like so many industries, the pandemic has caused a major impact. Many experts in the field of aerospace have mentioned the effects of COVID-19 on the industry itself.
Marco Salviato PH.D who is an assistant professor in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington has said,
“…the demand for engineers in the commercial aviation industry has seen a slowdown due to the pandemic that will probably last a few years”
It’s no surprise that in commercial aviation alone, it’s been one of the hardest hit simply due to a lack of travel both locally within countries and internationally.
In regards to manufacturing and maintenance, demand for spare parts is also down. With less demand for these materials, there’s less maintenance being done. This all leads to concerns regarding cash-flow and liquidity. However, like any industry, it will bounce back eventually.
4 trends in the aerospace industry to know as an engineer
As the aerospace industry continues to make it’s improvements, there are certainly plenty of trends appearing in all areas of aerospace engineering. From the technology now available, to smart new materials on offer. Here are a few trends that an engineer might find useful to know about.
1. Zero-emission aircrafts are coming
Airbus has recently released three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen commercial aircraft. The first of its kind, this zero-emission aircraft could enter our airspace by 2035.
Due to the global concern over climate change, companies like Airbus are actioning change and rightly so. EPA reports show that aircrafts contribute to 12% of U.S. transportation emissions alone.
Airbus believes that these concepts could be the solution for aerospace, along with many other industries, to meet the climate-neutral targets set by their country and beyond. The concepts themselves represent different approaches in order to achieve zero-emission flight. From various technology pathways and research in aerodynamic configurations, it’s all leading to a positive change.
Hydrogen as a primary power source is a game-changer and one that could help towards removing carbon emissions from the entirety of the aviation industry. By being one of the leading companies to push forward with zero-emission vehicles, it will hopefully inspire others to follow suit.
2. Growth in the maintenance, repair, and operations sector
With a new generation of aircrafts in the making, there’s a lot of innovation happening in the maintenance, repair and operations sector.
The proportion of carbon fibre used in aircrafts is set to increase. The scale at which composite use is rising, does pose some challenges when it comes to maintenance and repair. Specialist equipment is something that’s required to make the repairs necessary. There’s also the cost of these repairs through people, skills and training.
For any aircraft, the engine is one of the vital parts which requires regular maintenance to ensure operation efficiency. The complexity of the engine parts is only increasing and as such there are many military aircraft crashes in particular that are caused by engine failure.
This has created a trend whereby frequent engine maintenance and periodic checks are needed. It’s something that is seen across many countries, particularly in those that are exposed to extreme operating conditions in particular. They end up aging a lot quicker as a result.
However, this sector is likely to grow because of the investment needed from aviation companies far and wide. It means there will likely be more technicians and engineers needed to keep up with the demand. The military aviation sector, when it comes to maintenance and repair, it’s expected to grow from 37.6 billion USD in 2020 to 49.31 billion USD by 2030.
Aircraft maintenance and repair engineers are also using the Internet of Things technology for predictive opportunities. An IoT predictive maintenance solution can help spot any potential damages through the collection of data. By being able to predict the problems before they occur, it can hopefully help speed up engineering processes as well as saving money from costly fixes. Tackling a problem before it occurs can save on time and money for businesses within aerospace engineering.
3. Automation and Blockchain
Automation and blockchain are two big players within technology that are benefiting industries of all kinds. Blockchain, usually associated with cryptocurrency, helps enhance security by using data transparency.
This enhanced security is something that’s very much needed, especially in a climate where cyberattacks are rife in 2021. Having better resilience in networks and encryption for record-level data security can now be executed without failure.
In regards to aerospace, blockchain can arrange the interchange between the internal and external aerospace supply chain. It can create a secure, auditable, and shareable record between the manufacturer and the customer.
For aerospace engineers, the innovative technology that is automation, can provide many benefits to an engineer’s role. Automation can be a great help in increasing efficiency. Any automated process put in place can operate 24/7. That means whilst the engineers have clocked out for the day, progress can still be made on their tasks.
With automation, it’s often something that provides a quicker result than humans can achieve. Any robots that engineers are using can also navigate and move into tighter spaces that might not be reachable for humans.
Another great benefit with automation is that it improves safety, something that is a rightful concern for any engineer working with heavy equipment. Operators of this equipment can use automation to avoid any hazardous or dangerous tasks such as handling sharp or heavy objects. Prior to automation, some tasks would use repetitive motion and that would certainly have impacted the health of employees.
Finally, robots also help with quality control. For the aerospace industry, quality is crucial especially when it comes to safety. According to Nopsema, between 70-100% of incidents are caused by human error. Reducing human error is therefore incredibly important and automation can help with that.
It can identify, early on, any potential issues and ensure the reproduction of the final product doesn’t vary.
4. Additive manufacturing
Additive manufacturing, also known more familiarly as 3D printing, is a proven method in producing components and parts needed for aerospace engineering. This type of manufacturing can actually produce the same parts but uses a lot less materials than traditional methods.
Complex geometric shapes can also be built through 3D printing and can result in great strength, even though less material is used. Many engineers will likely be aware of the need to reduce weight when it comes to aerospace technology. This can help with improving areas of performance that include things like speed, fuel consumption and emissions, etc.
As a result of all this, 3D printing is becoming more popular with leading aerospace and defense organizations. This is something that has been trending for a while now but continues to be a popular method of manufacturing.
There are many businesses providing aerospace engineering software to develop innovative products that are light-weight, higher performing and fully utilized for the manufacturing process. In 2015, Airbus led a £3.1m research programme backed by Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK to help develop titanium powers that were going to specifically cater towards 3D printing.
Since then, the company has worked with Tekna Holding AS, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada as their provider for titanium powders.
What should aerospace engineers expect for the future?
As more innovative technologies and manufacturing methods come about, the future is an exciting one for engineers in aerospace. Like other industries, the advancements made, will likely provide bigger and better opportunities for aircrafts.
Engineers can benefit from staying up to date with all the latest trends that are transforming the aerospace industry year after year. One of the biggest developments in aerospace is the increase in travel to space. With big commercial companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin making progress on space travel, there’s a lot to learn.
Aerospace engineering in terms of space travel is certainly here to stay. As we’ve only explored a small fraction of space, there’s a lot more out there. For aerospace engineering here on earth, future graduates will likely be designing flying cars, electric and supersonic aircrafts. They’ll hopefully be working within a greener industry or getting closer towards it at least.
Whatever area of aerospace engineering, the future is one that has endless opportunities for younger generations who have a passion for this industry in particular.
Natalie Redman is a freelance writer for many clients across multiple industries. Natalie has two years of copywriting experience. Natalie has a wide range of experience copywriting web pages for businesses across many industries. She’s also an owner of two blog websites and a Youtube content creator.
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