In April 2019, Google became the first drone operator to receive government approval as an airline, an important step that gives it the legal authority to begin delivering products to customers.
On April 13, 2019, Stratolaunch System Corporation has successfully completed the maiden flight of the world’s largest all-composite aircraft, the Stratolaunch. The Stratolaunch aircraft enables convenient, reliable, and affordable access to space in a manner similar to that of any other aircraft. The aircraft is a mobile launch platform, the central reinforce wing of which, can support multiple launch vehicles weighing up to 500,000 pounds. The aircraft is designed with dual fuselage and has a 385-feet wingspan, with the tail of the aircraft 50 feet above the ground.
On October 29, 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by the Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Another Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed on March 10, 2019, killing all 157 passengers and crew. The main reason for both accidents was false data provided by faulty angle-of-attack aircraft sensors.
Over the last two decades, the US has continuously invested in technology development and deployment of layered missile defense systems for the protection of its homeland and its forces abroad. It faces threats from countries, such as North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China as these countries are deploying offensive missile systems. The US continues to make significant progress in the development and deployment of active missile defense capabilities. Some of the major missile defense systems deployed by the US include the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Aegis Sea-based Missile Defense, Aegis Ashore, and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) systems.
The tragic loss of life due to the crashing of the Lion Air flight 610 in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 resulted in the global grounding of the Boeing 737 Max until the cause of the crash could be reliably identified. Globally, 371 of these aircraft have been grounded. The potential risk for Boeing could be the complete or partial cancellation of orders placed by global airlines, litigation for victims of the crashes, and compensation claims by airlines for lost revenue, presenting opportunities for rivals.
March 7, 2019 - Airbus Helicopters (France) concluded the Heli-Expo 2019 with 43 new orders for its major civil product range, namely the H125, H130, H135, H145, H160, H175, and H225 aircraft across the globe. Of the 43 helicopters, 49% orders were from its longstanding customer, Air Medical Group Holdings (AMGH) (US), for a mix of single-engine H125s and twin-engine H135s. Airbus also launched a new version of its H145 helicopter at the expo, resulting in orders for 10 units and 9 retrofits.
Boeing introduced the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, a new unmanned system which will be designed and developed by Boeing Australia with investment from the Australian Department of Defence. The unmanned aircraft model was introduced at the Australian International Airshow by the Australian Minister of Defence, Mr. Christopher Pyne. Boeing (US) and the Australian government will manufacture and demonstrate the concept aircraft. The prototype aircraft will offer major findings and insights for the development and production of Boeing Airpower Teaming System. The prototype, named Loyal Wingman, is Boeing’s biggest investment in new unmanned aircraft program outside of the US. According to Boeing, the aircraft will be integrated with advanced sensors to perform electronic warfare, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft will be enabled with artificial intelligence capability to fly alongside piloted aircraft during missions.
Boeing NeXt, which leads Boeing’s urban air mobility division, worked together with Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to design and develop the electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The company successfully tested the aircraft’s autonomous functions and ground control systems of its autonomous Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) on 22nd January, 2019.
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The test involved vertical lift off, hover, and landing operations. Boeing has progressed from the design concept to the first flight test within one year and it will be interesting to see how the company progresses to the next stages of flight testing. The next stages will be crucial as they will test the transition from hover to forward flight. The company has a long way to begin, however, this test is a stepping stone towards establishing and commercializing the concept of urban air mobility. Boeing being one of the market leaders in the aviation industry, with its extensive experience and resources, the company is a strong prospect to turn this vision into reality.
According to Vaibhav Dixit - Associate Vice President : Aerospace & Defense, at MarketsandMarkets™, The passenger air vehicle is suitable for urban city commute. The all electric engine will help in reducing the carbon footprint and the VTOL technology will support the take-off and landing almost anywhere with greater flexibility. Assuming the favorable regulatory framework, infrastructure development, technology advancements in terms of battery capability and power to weight ratio, and social acceptance, the autonomous passenger air vehicle is expected to be commercialized by 2023.
Impact on Market
In Jan 2019, FADEC Alliance signed a 25-year agreement with Lufthansa Technik to provide Full Authority Digital Engine Controls (FADEC) availability services for LEAP engines globally. LEAP engines are high by-pass turbofan engines which are highly reliable and high performance, enabling 15% lower fuel consumption as well as life cycle maintenance costs in comparison to the best CFM56 engines.
In a move that could change the way aircraft fly, Rolls-Royce, in January 2019, announced the development of the world’s fastest zero-emission all-electric aircraft by 2020. This green aircraft will be developed under the initiative “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL),” which involves players, such as Rolls-Royce, the Aerospace Technology Institute, YASA, an electric motor manufacturer, and Electroflight, an aviation start-up, and is partially supported by the UK government. Rolls-Royce, in its ambitious project, is aiming to reach 300+ mph and is expected to break the record of 210 mph among all-electric airplanes set by the Siemens airplane in 2017.