Every year, new advancements in technology are being released. From the newest iPhone to developments in the aviation industry, technology is on the up and up. Want to learn more about the improvements being made to the aviation industry? Here are some technology trends to keep on your radar.
Autonomous Flight Systems
Usually when you think of autonomous flights, the first thing to come to mind are drones. Afterall, implementing autonomous technologies has been a growing trend across several industries over the past few years. Drones have gained in such popularity that the FAA has even had to implement new regulations for their use.
However, it’s not just drones the aviation industry has been developing. Drone technology will need to be scaled-up before it’s ready for passenger planes and longer flights. The aviation industry’s end goal is to launch fully human-free flights. While these developments might be years away, we might be seeing planes being cut down to just one pilot in the coming years.
It’s no secret that the aviation industry is one of the largest consumers of fuel. Because of this, airlines have been trying to find ways of more sustainable air travel. One of the biggest advancements in recent years is the development of electric propulsion systems. While larger airlines are trying to be more environmentally friendly, smaller companies are partnering with NASA to develop new technologies and craft through the many programs associated with the Electrified Aircraft Propulsion research.
Rolls-Royce’s Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) division successfully launched their Spirit of Innovation electric plane this past September. The Spirit of Innovation is expected to make a run for the record books later this year with a target speed of 300+ MPH.
Many of the electric aircraft currently under development are for the emerging regional and urban air mobility markets. Smaller aircraft means a decrease in carbon emissions, engine noise, and takeoff space. Maybe air-taxis are a closer reality than you think.
Gone are the days of planes being made of primarily aluminum. As the industry strives for lighter, stronger materials for aircraft bodies and fuselages, they are steadily replacing aluminum. The new materials of choice are composites and alloys, such as titanium, graphite, fiberglass, reinforced epoxy, and ceramics. Not only are these materials stronger and stiffer than aluminum, but they are also resistant to chemicals and corrosion. They will be able to more easily maintain their superior qualities, even in in extreme conditions.
They are even working on new cost-effective, lightweight, and recyclable bio-composites made from biomass, biowaste, plants, crops, and micro-organisms. They will be able to be used alone or integrated with carbon or glass fiber.
The exterior of airplanes aren’t the only thing being made of new materials. Over the past decade, 3D printing has been gaining in popularity. The aviation and aerospace industries have not been exempt from this growth. At first it was just nonessential plastic parts, but over the past few years, there have been advancements in 3D metal printing. From replacement parts throughout the cabin to more essential commercial and military components, 3D printing can do it all.
With 3D printing, experts can create engine parts, wingtip fences, bearing housing, combustion chamber protective jackets, and more! 3D printing is also a great way to make new parts for older aircraft whose parts may be hard to come by. Whether it is because of the new demand for lightweight components or replacement parts, 3D printing is here to stay.
Structural Health Monitoring
An increase in new materials also means an increase in new ways to analyze the structural integrity of aircraft. With aluminum, damage- from small dents to large bends in the body of the aircraft- was easy to spot. However, the newer composites require ultrasonic scanning.
Because aircraft accidents are often fatal, innovations in structural health monitoring of the greatest importance. Structural health monitoring (SHM) involves the observation and analysis of the systems of the aircraft overtime to make sure there are no changes in the materials or their properties. Airplanes aren’t the only structures that undergo SHM- bridges and buildings go through it too.
Over the last decade, researchers have made significant advances in developing nondestructive evaluation (NDE) sensors. These sensors are either embedded or attached and technicians are able to use the data they gather to assess the state of the structure.
These advancements in SHM mean that airlines are going to need more specialized equipment and skilled employees to perform diagnostic tests. Because of this, the aviation maintenance field is on the rise! There is currently a shortage of aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs). If you’d like to learn more about what it takes to be an AMT, contact NCI today!