Digital is transforming the world. As advanced technologies become cheaper and gain more exposure, new areas are being penetrated where the physical and digital worlds increasingly overlap and blend together. Enterprises embrace these emerging technologies not only to digitize their operations, but also to participate in the flexible and constantly engaging business ecosystem.
The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry has been among the early adopters of digital technologies. A&D players have been using robotics and automation in their assembly lines since the last two to three decades. However, the evolution of new digital technologies and their adoption have never been at a faster pace than that at which digital is disrupting the A&D ecosystem today.
Companies have immense focus on using advanced manufacturing techniques to reduce costs and improve productivity. The enormous amount of data captured through sensors and advanced analytic techniques have opened up a view into insights around operations, product performance and customers that were never explored before.
A&D companies are under constant pressure to maximize profitability and improve operational efficiency. Operating in an uncertain world, they need to continuously adapt to business disruptions. Digital brings in a new level of interconnectivity, which challenges organizations to think differently about risk and resilience while embracing opportunities through driving innovation.
Here are the technologies opening up new areas of improvement within A&D.
OEMs and their suppliers use 3D printing technology to customize aircraft and defense equipment for multiple customers. They deploy large 3D printers to manufacture durable parts from heavy metals such as titanium, and tungsten with minimal wastage. These automated printers offer great precision and low maintenance to OEMs and decrease their supplier pool volume and dependency.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning enable suppliers to continuously monitor and analyze large volumes of data related to machines to identify anomalies and predict breakdowns. Creation of “digital twin” — a virtual replica of the machine in the cloud — enables them to optimize operations for various outcomes.
Cognitive insights enable OEMs to improve efficiencies and design better products. Progressively, OEMs use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make autonomous systems, which would be self-sufficient in making flight operational and battlefield decisions on their own.
Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are disrupting the maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) business by providing engineers more information about critical parts and visibility to maintenance activities.
Augmented reality technologies can create advanced simulations for pilot and defense personnel to gain significant experience through using virtual A&D systems before even physically handling those.