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Technological Advancement in Aerospace Industry

Aerospace and Defense | Jun, 2023

The aerospace sector is continuously evolving and registering positive growth with the introduction of commercial spacecraft, including satellites and suborbital flight, Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) vehicles, and advancement in space technologies. Improvements in the infrastructure, business models, and supporting architecture are also contributing to the growth of the sector. As a consequence, urban air mobility and space tourism are gradually becoming a reality. The use of multisectoral technologies including 5G, cutting-edge satellite systems, 3D printing, Big Data, and quantum technology, among others, has made it possible to scale up and modernize air and space operations. The aerospace sector includes the design, development, production, and operation of airplanes, spacecraft, satellites.

The social, political, and technological changes that are driving this transition in the aerospace industry include environmental legislation, rising fuel prices, and developments in batteries, sensors, and connection. All of these changes are paving the way for the creation of autonomous, effective, and more electric airplanes. Besides, customers and authorities are pressuring the aviation and defense (A&D) sector to provide more fuel-efficient aircraft. Consequently, new rules to restrict emissions, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides (NOx), and to reduce noise have emerged. However, the green movement in the A&D sector, however, goes beyond simply following the law and protecting the environment since cost is another factor for the dynamic shift. As a result of the growing complexities, entrepreneurs are working hard to streamline the A&D industry's processes, products, and operations.

Here are some of the trends currently dominating the Aerospace industry.

Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS)

The adoption of the terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) has resulted in a significant reduction in accidents caused by controlled flying into terrain (CFIT). CFIT accidents can occur due to multiple reasons such as flight crew distraction, malfunctioning equipment, or miscommunication in air traffic control. With CFIT, generally pilots are unaware, and the situation becomes too challenging to handle on that moment. As an airplane navigates shifting terrain in a variety of weather situations, the technology offers life-saving information and acts as an essential layer of protection. TAWS gathers GPS data on an aircraft's position, speed, and direction, as well as its altitude and configuration, and compares it to a database of natural and artificial obstacles on Earth. The U.S. space shuttle program's radar topographical pictures, DOD data, and other information were combined to create this incredibly precise database. TAWS is able to deliver a variety of alerts when the aircraft's location and tracking information are superimposed on it. Key cautions issued by TAWS:

  • warnings regardless of the topography around when the sink rate is too great
  • warnings if terrain separation suddenly decreases
  • warnings when there is a severe fall of altitude following launch
  • If the landing gear or flaps are not set up properly, warnings will sound
  • If the aircraft has strayed too far from the glideslope, warnings will sound
  • Callouts for excessive bank angles

Here are some of the common features found in TAWS systems.

  • Terrain Display

TAWS systems use databases of topographic information to show a visual picture of the landscape around the aircraft. This enables pilots to clearly see the height, contours, and potential impediments of the landscape.

  • Terrain Proximity Warnings

When an aircraft is approaching dangerous terrain, such as mountains, hills, or towers, TAWS gives audio and visual alarms. These alerts are based on the altitude, terrain separation, and closing rate of the aircraft.

  • Excessive Descent Rate Warnings

TAWS monitors the aircraft's rate of descent and provides warnings if it exceeds a safe threshold. This helps prevent situations where the aircraft is descending too rapidly and may collide with the ground.

  • Excessive Terrain Closure Rate Warnings

TAWS determines the aircraft's rate of closure to the surrounding terrain. The technology warns the pilot to take quick action to avert a probable accident if the closure rate is determined to be excessive.

  • Altitude Callouts

TAWS can offer altitude callouts to make sure the pilot is informed of the current altitude of the aircraft. These callouts act as a reminder and aid in maintaining situational awareness, particularly during crucial flying stages.

  • Runway Awareness and Advisory System (RAAS)

RAAS is one of the more sophisticated TAWS systems, helping pilots during takeoff and landing. In order to inform pilots of the remaining runway distance, approach speed, or whether they are approaching the wrong runway, RAAS uses audio warnings and visual indications.

  • Data Integration

TAWS systems frequently connect with other avionics systems, including the flight management system (FMS), radar altimeter, and GPS of the aircraft. Data from these systems may be combined to provide the pilots with a more precise and complete situational awareness using TAWS.

TAWS technology may change between various aircraft types and avionics producers. The kind of aircraft and the avionics suite installed can affect the precise features and capabilities of a TAWS system.

In 2021, CHC Group, Leonardo Helicopters, and Shell Brazil entered into a strategic partnership to launch the first Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (H-TAWS). With the aid of H-TAWS software and hardware, the aircraft's precise three-dimensional position and velocity are computed in real-time in connection to precise databases of the terrain's height and the positions of dangerous obstructions. When flying in conditions that are intrinsically dangerous, the technology enables the pilot to make quick adjustments to the flight path to avoid controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) occurrences.

According to TechSci Research report on “Terrain Awareness and Warning System Market - Global Industry Size, Share, Trends, Opportunity, and Forecast, 2018-2030F, Segmented By System Type (Class A, Class B, Class C), By Engine Type (Piston Engine, Turbine Engine), By Application (Civil Airlines, Chartered Planes, Civilian/Private Rotorcraft, Military & Defense Aircraft, Fighter Planes, Carrier Planes and Rotorcraft), By Region”, the global terrain awareness and warning system market is expected to grow at a formidable rate. The market growth can be attributed to the rise in number of commercial flights and recent shift in consumer behavior in the transportation industry.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Aviation is one of the hardest-to-decarbonize sectors of the economy due to the long lifespan of airplanes and the limited number of viable pathways for reducing emissions. Global aviation accounts for approx. 2% of the greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is an alternative jet fuel that can lower greenhouse gas emissions throughout the course of its lifespan. It is generated from biofuels made from agriculture residues, trees, corn, cooking oil, synthetic fuels, and green hydrogen. To reduce aviation greenhouse gas emissions, the Biden administration aims to increase the production of sustainable jet fuel to 3 billion gallons per year by 2030 from 15.8 million gallons in 2022. This would offer benefits such as reduced local air pollution, decarbonizing aviation, and considerable employment opportunities. Around 19.8 exajoules of sustainable aviation fuels could be needed for aviation sector to reach net-zero carbon emissions. In addition, several major airlines have pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in an effort to fight climate change.