Looking back on 2017’s first three months makes me realize how the aerospace industry continually evolves. There’s always a new way of flying and maintaining aircraft, getting data to and from them and everything in between. This evolution happens every day around the world, as I’ve witnessed traveling the globe and covering the industry.
In early January, Aireon started receiving its first automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast messages from space. That week, IBM proposed a new internet-of-things use of Blockchain and cloud-computing technology to create a digital ledger shared by airlines, MRO teams and OEMs to record flight events, operations conditions and scheduled maintenance checks.
At February’s end, I traveled to Thailand, where Thai Airways’ chief engineer previewed plans to build a new MRO campus at Rayong’s U-Tapao International Airport. There, Airbus and Thai Airways will offer avionics maintenance services and will use iPad apps to analyze maintenance data on the health of aircraft en route to the airport. They also will use small drones to inspect airframes.
In early March, at Heli-Expo in Dallas, I stepped into the avionicsless cockpit of Bell Helicopter’s FCX concept rotorcraft. There, through virtual-reality goggles, I viewed Bell’s futuristic vision for flying the optionally piloted rotorcraft using a voice-activated, artificial intelligence computer assistance system.
A day before I wrote this, Boeing kept this trend going early into the second quarter, launching a new technology commercialization division. The earliest investments for this Horizon X unit are for a provider of augmented-reality goggle software capable of using voice-activated commands to guide technicians that install wiring on hundreds of Boeing airframes a year.
This issue of Avionics will be available at upcoming conferences that will show ongoing aerospace evolution. At Aviation Electronics Europe, Airbus will discuss next-generation navigation concepts like RNP to xLS. Then, Avionics will appear at the ARINC Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee general session, where updates to standardization of new air transport avionics equipment interfaces will be among topics discussed.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of ongoing innovation. Who knows what the remainder of 2017 has in store? AVS