Earlier this week, I attended the 2008 Farnborough Air Show, one of the highlights of the aerospace industry’s calendar. I spent quite a lot of time visiting some of our partners and customers on their exhibition stands, as I’m interested in seeing how Wind River’s technologies are used in the end applications. It was also a good opportunity to catch up with contacts and find out more about the progrress of current developments and new programmes. Whilst walking around the exhibition, I couldn’t help but notice two significant differences compared to the previous event: an increased focus on unmanned systems and also on carbon footprint reduction.
Although Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) were present at the show for several years, they were much more prominent this year, with companies announcing new military and civilian UAVs. The latter are intended for law enforcement, border patrol and maritime surveillance operations. However, although there are still a number of issues related to the safety certification and operation of UAVs in civil airspace to be addressed, as I’ve discussed in previous blogs (‘Police Drone‘, ‘Avionics 2007 Amsterdam‘), it may be that increased end-user demand could result in pull-through which could accelerate this process.
A number of companies highlighted their development efforts to produce new technologies which will reduce aviation CO2 emissions. These include increased engine efficiency, and optimization of flight paths of aircraft to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Two techniques to achieve the latter – continuous descent arrival (CDA) and area navigation (RNAV) – rely on advanced Flight Management Systems (FMS) which use complex device software to calculate and maintain the optimal flight paths. (If you’re interested in reading more about these techniques, I’d recommend reading George Marsh’s article ‘Europe’s Green Pursuit‘ in Avionics Magazine).
Whilst at the show, I also took the opportunity to watch a few of the air displays. The Eurofighter Typhoon, is best known for its supersonic performance, and uses a deliberately aerodynamic unstable design to achieve high levels of agility but needs a complex flight control computers to keep it in the air, put on a very impressive display as usual including low-speed pass (There’s a brief glimpse of this manoeuvre from 0.19-0.22 in the video clip on the BBC News website). The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor (Air Force Technology) was at Farnborough for the first time and made a lot of use of its vectored thrust engines in its flight display (there’s a great video clip of the display on the BBC News website). In 2006, the MiG-29VT (precursor to the MiG-35) also performed some physics-defying acrobatics with its Klimov three-dimensional thrust vectoring (as opposed to the Raptor’s two), so it would have been interesting to compare the aircraft displays back to back…maybe in 2010?