Defining Aerospace Engineering Services
Aerospace engineering is a key branch of engineering that has materialized the human quest to fly. This domain has evolved a lot from the era of the Wright brothers. The industry got a massive boost from the Second World War era due to advanced research primarily in the defense areas. In the modern world, aerospace is the major source of global long-distance transportation. But aerospace is a huge capital-intensive industry (both from an aircraft manufacturing and airlines point of view). As a result, there are very few prominent civil/commercial OEMs (Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, COMAC) and the aircraft delivery time is around 5-7 years. The global airlines are also in a tight spot in terms of balance sheet and in some cases, the net worth is negative due to the huge debt obligation. Some of the usual concerns of the aerospace industry are rising oil prices, price war, government regulations, etc. The pandemic also has a devastating effect on this industry. With no clear alternative to global long-distance transportation (considering a concept like Hyperloop in the very early phase), aerospace engineering will revive and continue to thrive in the coming years. As sustainability, customer experience, new forms of urban mobility, and other trends catch the aerospace industry, we are observing significant interest from the OEMs, airlines, and government authorities to try and experiment with new concepts. So, aerospace engineering service providers have an excellent opportunity to be a part of this journey besides their existing mechanical and electrical engineering heavy portfolio.
Here we will discuss key aspects of the overall aerospace industry, key engineering features, and outsourcing.
Key players in the aerospace industry:
The aerospace industry has both B2B and B2C aspects. Airlines act as the bridge between these two segments. The key players in the aerospace industry are highlighted below.
- OEMs: Enterprises that are involved in aircraft manufacturing and selling/leasing to the Airlines. Some of the leading players are Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, COMAC. In some cases, the national government is also one of the shareholders of these aircraft manufacturers.
- Suppliers: Enterprises that are involved in manufacturing aircraft parts/ components/sub-systems. They are typically aligned and closely collaborate with the OEMs. Since there are millions of components in an aircraft, so OEMs typically have a long list of suppliers. Here the suppliers specialize in particular segments of an aircraft such as aero-engine, aerostructure, etc., and some of them multi-billion organizations.
- Airlines: These are the enterprises that are primarily the passenger carriers. There are also examples of cargo carriers here. Leading global postal and courier organizations also have their aircraft for cargo transportation.
- Regulatory Bodies: Includes key regulatory bodies (international, regional & country-specific) for safety, emission, and pricing among others. For example, International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Airports Council International, Federal Aviation Administration.
- Others: This includes ISVs, specialized hardware players, etc.
Below are the different types of aircraft/products in the aerospace segments. Typically, there are two major different types of players: Civil/Commercial aircraft manufacturers and Defense players. Some of the Civil/Commercial aircraft manufacturers are also operating in the defense domain (for example, Boeing) but there are several specialized defense players in the market such as Lockheed Martin.
- Civil aircraft
- Commercial aircraft
- Military aircraft
- UAV, drones (both for civil and defense purposes)
- Other Defense such as missiles, tanks
- Naval, marine engineering, ship building
- Airlines, airports
- New age concepts like Air Taxi, VTOL, etc.
Aerospace engineering segmentation by components:
Some of the key aerospace segments are highlighted below. Most of the segments are still dominated by mechanical engineering but the applications of embedded engineering have been increasing.
- Aerostructures: Aerostructure is a part of the airframe that enables design and fuel efficiency. Key parts of aerostructures are Fuselage, Wings, Empennage, Doors, Secondary Structures. At present, applications of composites have been increasing to reduce the weight of the aircraft.
- Aero engines: Aero-engine is a part of an aircraft propulsion system. Key components of aero-engine are Cold End, Hot End, Accessories, etc. Fuel efficiency, applications of alternate fuels are some of the key themes in this segment.
- Aero systems: Aero systems include Wheels & Braking Systems, Pumps & Valves, Power Distribution, Hydraulics, Sensing Systems. Expertise in Mechanical, electrical, and electronics is required here. Overall system reliability and safety are key themes in this segment.
- Avionics: Avionics include Electrical Systems, Communication Systems, Navigation Systems, Cockpit, Flight Control Systems. This is the key control system of the aircraft, so testing, audit, and certifications are important here.
- Interiors: Interior includes Cabin, Seats, Monuments, In-flight Entertainment, Cabin Electronics, Lighting System. A lot of innovation in terms of passenger comfort and experience is happening in this space.
Key trends in the aerospace sector:
Some of the key trends of aerospace engineering are highlighted below:
- Digital MRO: As connected flights have started to operate, so a lot of diagnostics data of the aircraft is available in real-time, resulting in faster maintenance turnaround.
- Autonomous flight: This is the same version of the autonomous car but in the air. Due to regulations and the advanced need for precision technologies, it may look impossible in the near future but it can reduce the need for the number of pilots in the coming years.
- Alternate fuel: As sustainability and emission norms are getting stricter, aerospace players have started to explore the feasibility of Hydrogen-powered aircraft and Electric propulsion
- Space tourism: The trendsetting by Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson has opened the gate of space tourism which can generate significant interest in the future.
- Usage of composites: Composite materials are used in interiors, exteriors, engine blades, and other areas to reduce weight, increase overall strength, realize complex design and shape, and enhance fuel efficiency among others.
- Flying taxi/Robo air taxi: This new form of urban mobility can become mainstream to avoid congestion and facilitate a fast aerial taxi service.
- Sophisticated defense systems: With the advent of Hypersonics, precise control/ surveillance systems, advanced weaponry, etc., the defense market will remain a growth opportunity for aerospace engineering players.
Aerospace engineering services opportunity:
Engineering service providers can focus on the key segments of aerospace engineering as mentioned below.
- New Product Development: Includes Design, Analysis, Development for certain components/sub-systems as a part of overall system engineering.
- Product Sustenance: Includes Value Engineering, Variants & Customization, Sustenance. Deep domain understanding including knowledge about safety and regulations is the key theme here as often service providers need an understanding of the existing system engineering of the product.
- Manufacturing Support: Includes support from Design for Manufacturability (DFM) to sourcing and manufacturing operations. Key tenets includeSupplier Qualification/ Parts Transfer, Tool Design, Prototype Support, Shop floor Services
- Testing & Certifications: Adherence to the standards and certifications (related to safety, quality management) like DO 178B, DO 254, DO 160G, AS9100, etc., are a must for the OEMs and suppliers.
- MRO/ After Market Services: MRO is a critical part of aircraft monitoring and maintenance including Diagnosis & Trouble Shooting, Repair Engineering, Technical Publication, Technical Support, Health Monitoring. With the advent of digital and IoT, MRO has become a competitive advantage for airlines in terms of cost-efficiency, turnaround time, etc.
- Software Implementation: Includes PLM Implementation & Support, MES Implementation & Support etc. These are the enabler for design, analysis, and shop-floor operations among others.