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View from India: Technology trends in aerospace and defence

Here’s a checklist of some of the top trends that are doing the rounds in the aerospace and defence industry globally and in India. Some parts of the globe are early adopters while others are exploring opportunities and beginning to catch up.

Smart Automation

Smart Automation will determine the factories of the future. Even in aerospace and defence (A&D) a time will come when technicians in the Airbus plant will be able to scan metal surfaces with tablets to determine technical specifications like the size of the bolt or the amount of torque required. Smart automation will ensure precision and safety in the value chain, apart from streamlining many of the manufacturing processes in commercial production of aircraft.

Big data and analytics

“The quantum of data generated through the aircraft can be analysed from a standalone perspective. This will also offer an insight into the satellites required for programme management and improve forecasts,” said Sandeep Kapoor, country head of marketing and business development, Keysight Technologies, addressing the audience at the Keysight India Aerospace Defense Symposium 2018 in Bangalore. Let’s not forget that the data coming from industrial equipment like jet engines and gas turbines has business value. Besides that, such data can be used to lower fuel consumption.

Cyber Security and Cloud

This is essential to ensure privacy, and it is critical to protect information besides ensuring that the framework of IT systems is in place. Cloud-based platforms with advanced analytics and tracking algorithms are effective for tracking, analysing and thwarting attacks.

Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing

“Even a conservative estimate indicates that around thousand components of the Airbus are being deployed through 3D printing,” highlighted Kapoor. To that extent, 3D printing is no longer a design tool as it was originally meant to be. The fact that it is integrated into almost all processes of the aircraft has given it a multipurpose outlook when it comes to applications. Broadly speaking, what it does is that it gives scope for iterations, allows quick turnaround, and minimises delays in production and improves performance standards, among other functions.

Zero-Fuel Aircraft

These are aircraft of the future and they will leverage photovoltaic energy. Generally these aircraft are designed in a manner such that the solar cells are encapsulated in the upper wings. The configuration and structure may differ from standard aircraft.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT with its sensor networks enables seamless collection and exchange of data. So when it combines with data analytics the sensors that are embedded in the aircraft leads to the streaming of real-time data. This application is for improving efficiencies. Other than that, it facilitates health monitoring of the engine. Above all, with IoT, A&D systems become smarter and more interconnected as it helps identify probable faults in the engines.

 

Many of these technologies are enablers and versatile in function. They streamline processes as they offer precision and accuracy. Technology is leveraged to control the complete production line or even composite parts that are being processed.

This results in the creation of reliable products, besides lowering costs in the manufacturing chain. Overall, these tech tools and solutions can be a game-changer for design and manufacturing in the A&D industry.

Interestingly, many skill sets and programming tools are common to both the auto industry as well as the A&D space except that the scale and complexity is much higher in the case of the latter.

However, A&D can succeed in the long run only when early adoption and innovation combine with an indigenisation push.

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