This year’s SAE AEROTECH international conference was held at the International Conference Centre in Fort Worth, Texas. The event is a platform for the latest in aerospace technology and capabilities, across a broad range of disciplines – including whole aircraft validation, structures, systems and propulsion. Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) technology experts Paul Clarke and Mark Summers attended the conference and the International Steering Committee Group meetings.

The conference was opened by Orlando Carvalho, Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics business. Orlando spoke about how Lockheed are pushing the boundaries of technology, with a particular focus on four key areas: sensor fusion, hybrid wing body tanker, next-generation unmanned aircraft, and compact fusion.

Orlando also shared Lockheed’s future vision of integrating a nuclear fusion reactor into an aircraft, moving towards a demonstration stage.

Kristen Baldwin from the Department of Defence shared some of the cyber security challenges the Department faces, and spoke about the pace and rapid application of commercial off-the shelf technology (something that will be discussed in more detail in the Institute’s forthcoming cyber security blog).

David Seymour, Senior Vice President for Integrated Operations at American Airlines, described the challenges around data for his organisation. American Airlines (AA) is in the process of a major aircraft renewal program; as part of this activity AA is developing a strategy to better leverage the benefits of data. David spoke about some of the challenges of the seamless integration of data, systems capabilities, fleet capabilities and how they are employing new skill sets, working differently with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and developing capabilities in new technologies such as machine learning to continue the organisation’s data evolution.

There was a strong digital focus throughout many of the presentations and the conference itself. The content was wide ranging, from cyber security to complex modelling and simulation of components, manufacturing process, systems validation and cabin management. Bombardier presented their approach to a whole aircraft validation platform, sharing the company’s vision of working with their supply chain to improve their time to market and connectivity.

Paul Clarke, ATI’s Lead Technologist, said:

Attending the SAE digital and data steering group enabled the Institute to present a UK perspective on its priorities around digital transformation in aerospace. This follows on from the progress the ATI has made on influencing the adoption of digital into the aerospace sector, and echoes some of the findings published in our INSIGHT paper on Digital Transformation.