Check out the Oct. 4 edition of What's Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines happening across the global aerospace industry.
Boeing to Consolidate South Carolina 787 Production in 2021
Boeing will consolidate production of 787 jets at its facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, starting in mid-2021, according to "the company's best estimate," the aerospace OEM said in a Oct. 1 press release.
"The decision comes as the company is strategically taking action to preserve liquidity and reposition certain lines of business in the current global environment to enhance efficiency and improve performance for the long-term," Boeing said.
COVID-19's impact on air travel was the primary driving factor behind the decision.
"The Boeing 787 is the tremendous success it is today thanks to our great teammates in Everett. They helped give birth to an airplane that changed how airlines and passengers want to fly. As our customers manage through the unprecedented global pandemic, to ensure the long-term success of the 787 program, we are consolidating 787 production in South Carolina," said Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
"Our team in Puget Sound will continue to focus on efficiently building our 737, 747, 767 and 777 airplane families," he added.
Production of the smaller 787 models will continue in Everett until the program transitions to the previously-announced production rate of six airplanes a month in 2021, according to Boeing.
AirAsia Digital, Google to Launch Redbeat Academy
AirAsia Digital, in partnership with Google, launched the new Redbeat Academy as part of their continued digital transformation journey, according to a Oct. 1 press release.
Initially set up to "upskill and cross-train AirAsia Allstars (employees) through a series of tech workshops in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and software engineering," among other technologies, Redbeat Academy has now opened its doors to the public, Air Asia said in the release.
The academy was launched by Yang Berhormat Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and Datuk Ir. Dr. Siti Hamisah binti Tapsir, Secretary General of Ministry Science, Technology and Innovation in the presence of Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, Executive Chairman of AirAsia Group, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Group; Aireen Omar, President (AirAsia Digital) of AirAsia Group and Marc Woo, Country Head, Google Malaysia.
"AirAsia has always embraced digitalisation and today is another milestone for us as we launch our premier tech academy," said Air Asia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes. "We are also proud to open the academy to the public now to provide opportunities for everyone, with the focus on mentoring the best in breed industry-ready professionals and producing problem-solvers using technology. Everyone needs to keep learning, growing and embracing the ever-changing tech landscape to ensure that we can stay relevant in this digital economy."
American Airlines Takes First Steps to Open International Markets with Preflight COVID-19 Testing
American Airlines is collaborating with several foreign governments to begin offering preflight COVID-19 testing for customers traveling to international destinations, starting with Jamaica and the Bahamas. The Texas-based carrier plans to expand the program to additional markets in the weeks and months ahead.
"The pandemic has changed our business in ways we never could have expected, but all the while, the entire American Airlines team has eagerly tackled the challenge of reimagining the way we deliver a safe, healthy and enjoyable travel experience for our customers," Robert Isom, president of American Airlines, said in a Sept. 29 press release. "Our plan for this initial phase of preflight testing reflects the ingenuity and care our team is putting into rebuilding confidence in air travel, and we view this as an important step in our work to accelerate an eventual recovery of demand."
Passengers traveling to Jamaica from Miami will be part of the initial phase, as American has reached agreement with Jamaica to launch an initial testing program at its Miami International Airport (MIA) hub next month. The initial phase of testing will be for Jamaican residents traveling to their home country. If a passenger tests negative for COVID-19 ahead of flying with American, the 14-day quarantine currently in place for returning Jamaican residents would be waived.
As its initial preflight testing programs begin to launch, American is also actively engaged with CARICOM, an integrated grouping of 20 Caribbean countries, about expanding the program to additional Caribbean markets.
"We are pleased that American Airlines has taken the lead to initiate this exciting COVID-19 predeparture testing program," said Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Chairman of CARICOM. "The Caribbean Community welcomes this important progress to re-open markets with the health and safety of our citizens being of paramount importance, and we'll be monitoring this program very closely as it ramps up in our region."
Boeing Awarded $298M Contract for Space Force Satellite Program
The Space Force has awarded Boeing a $298 million contract to build a satellite payload prototype and develop a new satellite communications architecture for the Space Force's Evolved Strategic SATCOM (ESS) program, according to an Oct. 1 press release.
The development contract received by Boeing is one of three for the ESS program, which will be military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) system. Full ESS system contracts are expected in 2025, according to the release.
"We have worked closely with the Space Force to define a program responsive to our nation's needs," Troy Dawson, vice president of Boeing Government Satellite Systems, said. "By leveraging our expertise in digital engineering and technologies with synergies across both our government and commercial systems, we're uniquely positioned to deliver solutions needed to address the ever-evolving threats."
Low-Cost Attritable Drones May Have Range of Air Force Roles
The U.S. Air Force may develop and field low-cost attritable/reusable (A/R) drones with a range of roles over the next decade, but the service has yet to say how or whether such drones would count toward its 2018 goal of increasing the number of Air Force squadrons by 24 percent, from 312 to 386.
One possibility is a number of composite squadrons having manned and low-cost unmanned aircraft for different missions, such as air dominance and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). In such a scenario, A/R drones would not add to the number of squadrons since they would be part of squadrons having both manned aircraft and UAVs.
"Certainly, we talk about the possibility of forward posturing some of these [unmanned] capabilities in theater so that you would have in the Pacific and Europe to our combatant commanders kind of a ready, postured force to augment some of the other capabilities we already have in theater," Air Force Col. Don "Stryker" Haley, deputy division chief of Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability's (AFWIC) futures and concepts division, said on Oct. 1 during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies' Aerospace Nation virtual forum.
FCC Frees Up More Mid-Band Spectrum for 5G
The FCC on Sept. 30 made 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for 5G deployment. The mid-band spectrum is primarily military use, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) operates high-powered defense radar systems on fixed, mobile, shipborne, and airborne platforms in this band.
The adopted rules remove the secondary, non-federal allocations from the 3.3-3.55 GHz band. The Report and Order adopted by the agency relocates non-federal radio location licensees to the 2.9-3.0 GHz band, allowing them to continue operating there on a secondary basis to federal operations.
The adopted rules remove the secondary, non-federal allocations from the 3.3-3.55 GHz band.
Urban Air Mobility
Paris Moves Towards Urban Air Mobility with Volocopter
Volocopter, a German electric air taxi company, announced it will be testing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles near Paris with Groupe ADP and RATP Group, according to a Sept. 30 press release. The focus would be on developing a UAM industry branch with a focus on electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL).
"The structuring and development of an Air Mobility branch on the airfield of Pontoise – Cormeilles-en-Vexin is both consistent with the Recovery Plan initiated by Paris Region, and in line with the key takeaways of Paris Region recent COP 2020 conference," said Valérie Pécresse, President of Paris Region. "It also falls within the scope and priorities of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games. As a result, this event represents an invaluable opportunity to involve the entire Aviation Industry and demonstrate the unique qualities of the Paris Region as an area of reference within the global Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market."
Testing will take place at Pontoise airfield, which is a suburban location 35 km northwest of Paris. Volocopter and the partners will be following DGAC (Civil Aviation Authority) regulations when they test flight and maintenance operations in a real aeronautical environment in June 2021, according to the release.
"We are incredibly excited to be the eVTOL manufacturer of choice in the Paris region's Urban Air Mobility project," said Florian Reuter, CEO at Volocopter. "We will open our first commercial air taxi routes in the next 2-3 years and are excited to have a potential launching partner here in Europe."
Václav Havel Airport Builds New Advanced Cyber Operational Security Center
The Cyber Security Operational Centre (CSOC) has launched at Václav Havel Airport Prague, according to an Oct. 1 press release. The CSOC is claiming to be the most modern and technically advanced cybersecurity workplaces in the Czech Republic.
Running 24 hours per day, the CSOC will protect strategic infrastructure against cyberattacks and prevent misuse of airport information systems, according to the release. Prague Airport claims to spend CZK 40 million (about $1.7 billion) to protect operational information each year.
"The complete safety of passengers and air traffic is our absolute priority," Vaclav Rehor, Chairman of the Prague Airport Board of Directors, said. "Threats to important airport information systems can lead to serious disruption to traffic, affecting both staff and passengers. This is the reason we pay special attention to cybersecurity. Launching the new operational centre, we have therefore decided not to use the services of external entities, but to build our own highly specialized workplace with a dozen internal information analysts and experts in cybersecurity."
The CSOC will use layers of security like monitoring, detection, evaluation, and blocking to protect IT systems. It will also be available for use when technological innovations like autonomous vehicles, biometrics, and artificial intelligence are integrated into the airport, according to the release.
AI-Enabled Drone App Comes to App Store
A new artificial intelligence (AI) powered drone application created by SkyGrid offers drone operators to automate every phase of flight with one solution, according to a Sept. 29 press release. SkyGrid, a Boeing SparkCognition company, launched the free application, SkyGrid Flight Control, in Apple's iPad App Store.
SkyGrid Flight Control is designed to automate everything from mission planning and flight execution to object detection, according to the release. Operators can use the application to see airspace and ground intelligence, weather data, and airspace authorization.
"Traditionally, drone operators have used several different tools to check airspace, get LAANC, plan and execute flights, and gather insights, but it's a manual, cumbersome process," Amir Husain, CEO and founder of SkyGrid, said. "Recognizing this challenge, SkyGrid has minimized the burden on drone operators by creating one solution that automates airspace, flights, and insights. As the only drone solution built on AI and blockchain technologies, we give operators and enterprises the assurances they need to execute safe, compliant missions."
There are more advanced features on the application that allow operators to use AI for mission planning and object detection. The advanced features would enable users to manage multi-drone missions.
"SkyGrid Flight Control is an important stepping-stone to enable more complex commercial drone operations and advanced air mobility in urban, regional, and global markets," said Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager of Boeing Next and executive board advisor of SkyGrid. "SkyGrid is solving complex problems in unmanned aviation with a system that will safely integrate the future volume of drones, passenger air vehicles, and other autonomous aircraft in the global airspace."