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Industry Collaboration Theme of Keynotes as AeroTech tackles Sustainability, Advanced Air Mobility, and Space Technology

Posted: March 17, 2022

While many things about the future are uncertain, one thing we can count on is that the only way we’re going to reach it is together.

“At SAE, we’re asking ourselves, ‘How can we bring across more collaboration in these sectors in a meaningful way?’ We need to bring about a very integrated approach,” said SAE Board of Trustees President Sri Srinath in his opening remarks.

It’s a thought Airbus Vice President for Research and Technology Amanda Simpson echoed as she detailed the work Airbus is doing surrounding sustainability in aviation, a focus area for the company and industry as fossil fuel scarcity and environmental damage are on the rise.

Simpson detailed possible alternative fuel sources, with a focus on hydrogen, as Airbus looks to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The research into innovative technologies is underway at Airbus as they partner with others across industry to reconsider not only the fuel for aircraft, but the potential shape of the vehicles themselves as new fuel sources necessitate the need for different types of engines, and could subsequently allow for more aerodynamic wings on the aircraft without needing to serve as the hub for engines.

Currently in the exploration stage, Airbus hopes to have a new type of aircraft in flight by 2035, and is working alongside the rest of industry to reduce emissions and create more sustainable practices that will help curb air pollution.

“We know this is an impressive schedule, but to satisfy what we see as a critical need for our planet, we have to start working on this right now. And I’m hoping that all of you will join that endeavor to start working on sustainability. It has to be what we do,” Simpson said during her address.

Like Simpson, the folks at NASA are searching for collaborators as well as they develop Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) with the hopes of making intracity air travel a reality within the next decade. NASA’s Dr. Parimal Kopadekar and Davis Hackenburg provided a brief overview of the work in the organization’s history surrounding flight that has led to the research point they are currently at looking into scalable AAM solutions, working with communities to consider noise concerns, ensure a strong, sustainable supply chain, and allowing production cycles to happen in a sustainable manner.

“One of the things we like to do at NASA are…things that everyone will agree on. Very few times you will see there are issues like that that bind the entire industry,” Kopadekar said.

And in their efforts, NASA is taking some cues from SAE.

“One of the things we realized and learned is that we need to have everything ready simultaneously. It doesn’t do us any good if aircraft is ready but aerospace is not, or aerospace is ready but aircraft is not, so we bring a constant of urban air mobility levels, building on what SAE did for autonomy levels,” Kopadekar added.

While NASA is looking to urban airspace, Boeing launching into their normal turf beyond the atmosphere. Dr. Danny Howard, Director of Space Electronics at Boeing, gave AeroTech attendees an overview of the company’s space products, highlighting their work with updating satellite technology and the role Boeing will play alongside NASA and other space researchers as we look to expand our exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond.

“This mission is an ambitious one but it’s going to take all of industry—and in fact the world—to contribute to it,” Dr. Howard said.