An Insight of Aerospace & Defense Products Manufacturing

Baskar has prior experience at National Instruments and Apna Technologies & Solutions Pvt Ltd. He holds an MS from Vanderbilt University and has a strong skill set including Key Account Management, New Business Development, Project Management, Business Strategy, and Product Management.

The aerospace and defense sector is a vital part of the worldwide economy, fostering creativity, generating employment and industries, and exerting a significant influence on both international and national security. As aerospace manufacturing and defense industry comprises the manufacturing of aircraft, space vehicles, engines and parts, as well as maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services, this CXO excerpt delineates the importance of the sector. The siliconindia team converses with Baskar Ceri, Managing Director, National Instruments - India for important industry insights. Let’s read through!

What are some of the challenges and considerations that you come across when designing and manufacturing defense and aerospace products, and how do you address them?

Well, notably there are several challenges, and particularly global ones that are shared among different countries. The current global challenges we face include increasing system complexity, longer platform life cycles, budget constraints, and shorter system development timelines. Additionally, the expanding reliance on software introduces new challenges such as cybersecurity and the shortage of skilled engineers. To address these challenges, we need to prioritize modernizing infrastructure, accelerating government reforms, promoting in-house production and technologies in India, and encouraging private companies to play a more significant role. We need to think bigger and aim to create technology and defense giants in India, like Lockheed Martin. Shifting focus back to engineering and investing in aerospace engineering education and training programs will help develop this ecosystem.

The aerospace industry is under pressure to reduce its environmental impact. Can we expect increased emphasis on green aviation initiatives in the coming days?

Yes, there is a strong focus on green aviation initiatives. The aviation industry is actively working on developing fuel-efficient aircraft and promoting the use of sustainable aviation fuels. Recently, a major company completed a 100 percent flight using a sustainable aviation aircraft, demonstrating the potential for the future. There is a commitment within the industry to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, with significant investments in sustainable aviation fuels and fuel-efficient aircraft. Electric propulsion systems, including EVTOL (electrical vertical takeoff and lift) and electric taxis, are also seeing substantial investments, offering potential for shorter consumer flights. Commercial operations using these technologies are expected to begin in the U.S. and possibly the Middle East in the next few years, with potential for expansion to other regions like India. Overall, these efforts aim to reduce the climate impact of the aviation industry.

The aerospace and defense industry is the cornerstone of technological advancement. What are the trends that are shaping the Aerospace & Defense industry?

Few years ago, the US Department of Defense released a list named Advanced Capability Enablers (ACE) which identified technologies that are expected to significantly impact defense and aerospace systems. These included autonomy, robotics, unmanned systems, sensor fusion, artificial intelligence, electric aircraft, hypersonics, multi-domain operations, and cybersecurity with data sharing. Additionally, other technologies such as large satellite constellations, additive manufacturing (3D printing), quantum computing, and augmented/virtual reality were highlighted. These advancements are not only important for aerospace but will also have a broader impact across various industries and even for India's indigenous defense projects like LCA and AMCA.

How is the Digital twin technology transforming the aerospace and defense industry? How does it drive the industry to make it more efficient and sustainable?

A digital twin can be created for any object, from individual components to an entire aircraft. It helps in the design, prototyping, and testing process, particularly in improving testing efficiency. For example, conducting a test flight, such as for an LRU in LCA, can be very expensive, costing lakhs of rupees per hour. However, a digital twin can reduce the need for these test flights by more than 50 percent, resulting in cost, time, and efficiency benefits, as well as making processes more sustainable.

During the manufacturing phase, a digital twin can speed up design modifications, optimize schedules, and improve asset availability. Additionally, it enables predictive maintenance, allowing for the feedback of flight data into the digital twin to manage and maintain assets. This can significantly reduce maintenance costs and minimize downtime. This closed-loop system is vital in aerospace equipment, especially for managing rocket launchers and satellites, where maintaining performance is critical. Expanding beyond asset and component levels, digital twins can also improve mission planning, pilot training, and overall operations, leading to increased efficiency as technology continues to advance.

What is the vital role of government in the aerospace and defense industry? What are the initiatives taken by the government?

India aims to become a developed country, with a focus on the aerospace and defense industry. The government has implemented programs such as Make in India and Digital India to encourage indigenous manufacturing and increased foreign investment in the sector. Collaboration between foreign and Indian companies is on the rise, with promising developments in space initiatives and startups. The government plays a crucial role in fostering this growth through policies and support. The vision should be to create the next SpaceX, Boeing, or Lockheed Martin in India within the next 20-30 years.

Please share your thoughts on how the A&D industry in 2024 promises a convergence of technological innovation, strategic planning, and global collaboration.

We have seen significant changes over the past few years, particularly with regional conflicts and geopolitical issues. The aerospace and defense industry is at a pivotal moment in 2024, with technologies converging and maturing. We have made progress in areas such as artificial intelligence systems (AIS), hypersonics, eVTOL (electrical vertical takeoff and landing) technology, and sustainable aviation. Given the advancements in technology and the evolving geopolitical landscape, the years 2024 and 2025 could be crucial in accelerating the growth of the entire industry. From an Indian perspective, we should focus on developing these technologies within the country to position ourselves for the future. Additionally, we need to address the lag in cybersecurity capabilities and work towards improving in that area. The past five years have provided us with advanced technological capabilities and posed new challenges, setting the stage for exponential growth. I believe that the aerospace and defense industry, both globally and in India, will undergo significant changes in the next few years and will play a substantial role in the industry.