5 Aviation and Aerospace Trends to Look for in 2019 and Beyond

The aerospace industry has always been a source of innovation, whether it’s technical developments that later make it into the hands of consumers or proactive responses to economic trends that will soon be felt by the rest of the world. Here are a few things to look forward to in the coming years.

The Power of Data. Big Data is having a growing influence on the aviation industry, informing the way businesses interact with their customers and customers’ expectations of the businesses with which they interact. Analytics allow manufacturers to better manage resources and decrease time to market, and allow airlines to better understand customers and predict their behavior. Consumers, on the other hand, have become accustomed to sites and apps that can find them the best travel dates, ticket prices and even seats with the click of a button, and they expect nothing less than perfect service from the companies with which they interact.

New Material. Use of carbon fiber and composites in aerospace has been on the rise as a lightweight — and thus more fuel-efficient — alternative to metals like steel and iron. Most of that rise has been in widebody jets, though — production rates and material costs have reduced the cost benefit of composites in narrow-body aircraft. But the passage of time has started to shift popular opinion. Manufacturers are beginning to see significant savings in maintenance and replacement costs for carbon fiber components, making it far more appealing to expand adoption across the entire fleet.

Thinking Small. With airlines bracing for a period of global economic uncertainty, right-sizing aircraft and routes is becoming a priority. Intra-regional routes are expected to grow, many served by 100- to 150-seat planes. As airlines refresh their aging fleets, demand for fuel-efficient, cost-efficient, right-sized aircraft can be expected to rise.

Droning On. Drones have moved far beyond the quadcopter toy favored by the coolest kid in the neighborhood. Industries from logistics to farming are finding uses for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Warehouses are monitoring their stock using drones. Farmers are monitoring their fields. Construction companies are mapping build sites and monitoring progress. The drone has replaced the crane and the helicopter as a source of aerial shots in the film industry. The market for piloted aircraft will never wane, of course, but expect to see demand for UAVs rising as new industries discover new uses.

Working Together. The aerospace industry in the U.S. contributes greatly to both the domestic and global economy—it provides hundreds of thousands of jobs inside the country and more than a third of global aerospace component exports. Most of these come through the two big aircraft manufacturers in the U.S., and smaller companies are beginning to form partnerships to break into the global market with components for commercial and military aircraft and MRO services.

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