Since the boom in information technology in the 21st century, every single industry has undergone change. There have been a number of innovations and advancements that have brought about changes in the way processes are conducted and services are provided. The same is applicable to the aviation industry. As it never shied away from technology, it has positively flourished due to advancements in aircraft development, recyclability concerns and improved fuel efficiency. The regulatory standards in the aviation industry are quite heavy, but everyone from manufacturers to suppliers, have adopted useful technologies for rapid development.
Discussed below are some of the ways modern technology is revolutionizing the aviation industry these days:
Balloons from Austria carrying bombs for attacking Venice were the first known aircrafts without pilots. The bombs could be detonated with a timer as they were wired with fuses. In theory, it was a solid idea, but the execution was a failure. It didn’t take long for people to take this idea and change it into something different. Cameras were mounted to a number of unmanned aerial vehicles for the purpose of surveillance and these vehicles included balloons, kites, aircrafts or any other objects that could fly. These unmanned aerial vehicles advanced with radio technology and by World War II, they had become to be used for target practice and as flying bombs that were controlled by radio.
During the Cold War, there were further advancements in drone technology and various unmanned flight projects were funded by the CIA and Vietnam. Eventually, the face of warfare was changed in the 1980s with the introduction of the Predator drone, which could stay in the air for about 56 hours. Finally, in 1995, the US Air Force created their first official UAV squadron. Not only was the Predator drone used for locating terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, but also helped in taking them out. The drone was loaded with missiles and was used for conducting airstrikes in the war of terror after 9/11.
These days, drone technology has now become a part of the civilian sector. Small drones are used for a myriad of purposes ranging from package delivery to law enforcement. These aerial systems are still widely used in the military, but there is also a rise in commercial demand, which is changing the aviation landscape. New drone rules have been introduced and in 2016, the FAA also finalized a new Small UAS Rule Part 107, which requires remote pilot operators to have a private pilot or pilot operator certificate.
3D printing became a rage rather rapidly as did the advancements. Lots of people thought this technology wouldn’t take, but 3D printers were used by GE Aviation for building aircraft engines and that got it going. 2016 became the year of 3D jet engine parts thanks to GE Aviation. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing has become a major part of the manufacturing process. Oak National Ridge Laboratory and Boeing teamed up last year for 3D printed a 777x wing trim tool, the largest piece made with this technology. It took only 30 hours for making it whereas traditional methods would have taken three months to do the same. Furthermore, Rolls Royce and Airbus have revealed their plans to start 3D printing the parts for the Trent XWB-97 engine. If this technology is continuously integrated, it could transform the shipment of parts of aircrafts into an exchange of 3D printing blueprints. Even though it is still in is initial phase, 3D printing technology could mean huge efficiency increases, vast changes to the supply chain and aircraft manufacturing and reductions in the amount of waste on a large-scale.
Yes, ecommerce is not exactly a new technology, but its adoption in the B2B market, which includes aviation, is very slow as opposed to the B2C market. There are tremendous benefits that can be associated with ecommerce as far as the aerospace supply chain is concerned. Some of them include ease of ordering for customers, improvements in inventory management and a host of other advantages to the customers. Ecommerce also gives suppliers the option of tracking part usage and it can also be used to track customers who need to reorder.
Even though it is often confused with virtual reality, augmented reality is not the same. The former only exists in the virtual world while the latter is concerned with technology used for superimposing virtual elements in reality. Wearable available today like Google Glass are great examples of augmented reality. In the last few years, aviation industry has seen a shortage of training personal for MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) activities such as the quick expansion of airlines in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, lack of training and limited spots. Augmented reality would enable MROs to train anywhere without waiting for opening spots and this would push them into availability quickly. This technology is not used on a grand scale, but it is gradually being adopted by companies thereby benefitting the aviation industry.
The Internet of Things
This technology is one that enables electronic devices to communicate with each other without requiring a computer host and was quickly adopted by the aviation industry. Airlines had begun to gather huge quantities of data by placing sensors throughout the interior and exterior of planes, even before they knew what to do with the data. Today, maintenance, repair and overhaul professionals (MROs) can use tablets for communicating with these plane sensors. In this way, they are easily able to scan aircraft systems for identifying any components that need repair or replacement. As a matter of fact, these sensors can also come in handy for tracking in the supply chain. This means that suppliers will now have the ability of identifying parts that are near their end and prepare shipments beforehand to ensure MROs are not lacking. Other than that, all the data collected in this manner can also improve efficiency.
With more technological advances like solar and electric aircrafts in the works, it is safe to say that the aviation industry has a bright future.