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A&D companies would do well to pay attention to 5G

Anand Pradhan Head of Business Innovation & Transformation, Aerospace Manufacturing,  Tata Consultancy Services
By Anand Pradhan Head of Business Innovation & Transformation, Aerospace Manufacturing, Tata Consultancy Services

Much has been written about potential applications for 5G. But a less well known application exists in the aerospace and defense industry—that pertains to manufacturing processes.

The backlog of commercial aircraft orders is serious. And 38,000 more aircraft are expected to be manufactured in the next 20 years. Luckily, 5G provides aircraft makers with the ability to fully realize shop floor optimization, after-sales services and maintenance, and maximize uptime and lifecycle expectancies for existing and new aircraft alike.

Aerospace manufacturers have always adopted technologies to drive efficiency. The combination of low latency and high speeds of 5G will complement automation, predictive analytics and robotics tech.
Real-time data collection from smart sensors and the machine control system is essential. In combination with workpiece simulations, this data gives an exclusive insight in what is really happening at the contact point between the tip of the cutting tool and the component surface.

Vibration data combined with simulation data provides an accurate control strategy. This strategy combined with real-time reliability and high data-transmission rates are critical to create a wireless, closed-loop control system and high precision process monitoring.

Predictive analytics tech will be able to predict shop-floor part failure long before actual problems arise. Through the integration of 5G, aerospace firms will be able to confidently ensure that their shop-floor machinery is always running. Additionally, predictive technology will be able to order spare parts and routine maintenance on an as-needed basis for shop-floor machinery.

With demand surging, it’s important that any pre-existing aircraft is maintained and serviced to extend aircraft lifecycle for as long as possible. It’s equally as important that any existing or future aircraft is serviced in advance to keep all active aircraft in the skies at all times. 5G, paired with similar predictive analytics technologies that benefit the shop floor, will help aircraft makers do just that. When paired with edge computing capabilities, 5G will let aircraft communicate with and transfer data to shop-floor machinery and supply-chain management technology in real time. This way, spare part inventory and routine maintenance of end-product aircraft will be streamlined, as well—bringing a fully automated aftermarket services and repair solutions to aircraft manufacturers.

While the implications for 5G integration in aerospace manufacturing shop floors and aftermarket services are profound, there are implications that extend into other aspects of the aerospace industry as well; 5G technology will also play a major role in urban air mobility, airport operations, aircraft interiors and defense and cybersecurity. Over time, advances in electric propulsion, autonomous flight technology and 5G communication networks will spawn on-demand air-taxi services and scheduled airport shuttles. Passenger travel is expected to surge, so airline and airport internal networks also need to be optimized. 5G will help air traffic control navigate increasingly crowded skies, bring higher quality data and streamline security and customer service processes. Airlines will be able to provide more unique user experiences, making all aspects of the customer journey more efficient.

These are just a few ways 5G will impact how aerospace firms and others interact to develop an ecosystem capable of handling even the highest passenger demands.

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