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11 January 2021
by AviaPro’s Head of Industrial Services, Jorge Abando
Several industry organizations and pundits have summarized their outlook for 2021 aerospace industry trends. Whether precipitated and expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic, or not, here is a brief of what we at AviaPro Consulting see as a consensus:
Continued development of New Propulsion Systems through Electric and Hybrid Engines. Despite the relatively stable price of crude oil at a five-year average low of about $50 per barrel, an incremental approach will continue to be undertaken by firms integrating current technology with new to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; thus, electric powered aircraft are continually being developed in R&D labs. Already with over a decade’s worth of work, Airbus has been an industry leader in this field and is continuing to ‘lay the groundwork for zero-emission aviation.’
Relatedly is the further development of Autonomous Flight Systems, as we see how drone technology is already being scaled-up for eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing). While versions that carry passengers may still be several years away, investments and innovation in the coming years will consistently be geared toward this effort.
On the manufacturing side, a trio of Smart Materials, 3D Printing, and Multiphysics Simulations will continue to be key in meeting market demand. There will be increased use of carbon nanotubes and graphene for weight reduction, 3D printing for reduced R&D development work, and multiphysics simulation to deal with complexity, while retaining accuracy and reducing risks.
On the business side, suppliers are likely to pursue opportunities for consolidation through Mergers & Acquisitions, with small-to-medium-sized businesses involved in R&D. This will also impact the slow pace of modernization, where many company systems are outdated with legacy software, dragged by time and costs to change; thus, there is an opportunity to expedite the process by more well capitalized firms.
For Maintenance, Repairs, and Overhaul, there will be an increased use of simulated data to help aid in predictive maintenance modelling for the next generation of flight systems; thus allowing for a reduction in MR&O related costs.
There are always other segments of the industry with technological development activity that will significantly impact overall industry progress, such as continued innovations involving artificial intelligence, sensory technologies, and robotics. And while commercial air transport will experience a slow recovery due to the pandemic, the defense sector will continue to remain stable as countries plan to maintain their military capabilities, further helping to fuel the trends mentioned above. According to Deloitte, global defense spending is expected to grow about 2.8% in 2021; and the space industry is likely to experience increased opportunities, primarily in satellite broadband internet access.
Indeed, the future of the global aerospace industry will continue to grow beyond the current pandemic.