With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 60% of the world’s commercial aircraft are grounded. Financial losses for airlines in 2020 are projected to be the largest in aviation history – over US$84 billion (73.9 billion euro). By comparison, airlines lost US$31 billion (27.3 billion euro) in the global financial crisis and oil price spike of 2008 and 2009.
France announced this week a US$17 billion (15 billion euro) support plan for its aerospace industry. Government initiatives are also in place in the United States and China to neutralize business impacts of the pandemic. The French plan includes accelerating military investments, pushing research on a green jetliner and investing in digitalization of the manufacturing supply chain.
The initiative also includes a US$1.4 billion (1 billion euro) investment fund to assist small and midsize enterprises (SME) in particular to help improve competitiveness and invest in carbon-reduction technologies. The initial capital will be partly financed by airplane makers Airbus and Dassault Aviation, engine maker Safran and systems firm Thales. (Dassault Aviation and Dassault Systèmes are each part of Dassault Group.)
“Our target is to have a carbon-neutral airplane in 2035 instead of 2050, thanks especially to an (ultra-efficient) engine using hydrogen,” said Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of Economy and Finance, at the program announcement. France’s Civil Aviation Research Council (CORAC) leads an endeavor to develop technologies to improve French aviation’s environmental footprint and boost competitiveness.
Dassault Systèmes and our 3DEXPERIENCE platform are key enablers in this journey, both for defense and commercial aerospace development.
Accelerated military investments
With accelerated defense spending will come the need to ensure that all new European defense systems are clearly interoperable, do not have massive cost overruns and provide efficient total cost of operations. In addition, the constant evolution of threats (such as hypersonics, space domination, disposable drones) will require more frequently adapting the requirements of such defense systems.
The 3DEXPERIENCE platform provides defense agencies with the ability to directly interact at each stage of the project with the virtual twin of such systems. This allows them to better define interoperability requirements and monitor closely the development phases and associated costs. The platform also, through its data driven services, will enable the armed forces to improve overall readiness by performing predictive maintenance. The coupling of the virtual twin with big data analytics will differentiate the system long term for innovation and reducing cost of operations.
Toward a greener aircraft
In commercial aerospace, greener aircraft will require faster innovation and new standards in sustainability, ultimately pushing for an accelerated reform of the certification process. However, any reform cannot decrease safety imperatives. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform could allow certification agencies to evolve their practices and benefit from the latest virtual testing technologies as an acceptable means of compliance.
Agencies also would be able to enforce traceability of requirements down to a specific level of design, and assess production safety for virtual commissioning in order to ensure safety in both design and production. This will foster better collaboration between Certification Agencies and OEMs, enable faster innovation and maintain compliance to essential safety standards.
Digitalization of the manufacturing supply chain
To improve collaboration between OEMs and suppliers, and enable a flexible production system, there is a need to improve the digitalization of the manufacturing ecosystem globally. Today, almost 50% of aerospace companies that have total annual revenues of less than US$112.6 million (100 million euro) have either no vision or no preparation in terms of digitalization readiness. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables the required digital continuity based on the standards of the aerospace industry.
The platform improves collaboration with all suppliers and enables OEMs to push down to the right level of automation and at the precise level of detail for each different domain (such as sheet metal, composites, NC machining, additive manufacturing). Digital continuity between OEM (usually the designer) and supplier ensures that everyone works in the same process. This specific implementation relies on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform’s deep aerospace technical knowledge and enhancements that have been developed over the last 40 years.
Powered by the cloud
Each supplier has its own digital ecosystem, with customizations that improve specific processes, but are detrimental to collaboration. By switching to the cloud, aerospace OEMs and suppliers will be sure to benefit from the latest releases and innovation. Also, using the cloud will lower cost of operations overall through a communal IT infrastructure and removing unnecessary capital expenditures. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform is cloud ready for aerospace, and already powering many aviation startups that are more digital native.
These approaches have already been employed in multiple endeavors.
Eviation Aircraft utilized the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to design and build a 100% electric-powered plane with a cruising speed of more than 240 knots (approximately 280 mph/444 kph). It would be a monumental task for any company, and even more challenging considering Eviation’s more than 160 suppliers and partners located all over the world, but they all used the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud with its design and simulation applications, and powerful work-from-anywhere collaboration.
SOLAR IMPULSE is a solar-powered plane designed and built to fly around the world to demonstrate what is possible with alternative energy sources. “The 3DEXPERIENCE platform’s design and simulation applications were extremely helpful because they enabled us to develop our plane without using physical prototypes, which are too expensive and take too long to build,” said André Borschberg, Co-founder, CEO and Pilot.
The Innovation Campus at Wichita State University and Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE Center was developed in partnership with Wichita State University’s National Institute of Aviation Research (NIAR). The center has established an interconnected community of top researchers, corporations and laboratories to accelerate innovation and deliver more affordable aerospace products faster and more efficiently.
Restarting the world’s travel
Restarting business travel and, in fact, the world after the pandemic will entail a new normal. Passenger confidence will come through coordination of safety measures that are already happening among airlines and air travel authorities in each nation. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform assists here as well, using simulation to evaluate what-if scenarios for passenger queuing, social distancing and air flow.
Focusing support through the public sector, continuing innovation from private companies and entrepreneurs, and applying proven technologies, the world will find its way out of our health and economic crisis to create a supportive and sustainable world.