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The Future of Aviation, Satellites and the Aerospace Industry, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The aerospace industry is one of the world’s most rapidly evolving business and technology sectors.  Lightweight materials, artificial intelligence, the internet of things (M2M communications), improvements in rockets, miniaturization—especially in satellites and circuitry, along with advancements in jet engines, will have a very significant effect on the industry over the short- to mid-term.
The civilian airliner industry has made tremendous strides in aircraft design in recent years.  These steps include much better fuel efficiency in jet engines and wing designs, as well as better avionics.  Boeing enhanced certain aspects of passenger comfort, such as cabin air quality and lighting, in its new 787s.  However, new aircraft are incredibly expensive and challenging to design and bring to market.  Both Boeing and Airbus have faced great challenges in developing and manufacturing their latest, most advanced models.  Consequently, one  of the next big advances in the airline industry may well be in air traffic control.  Inefficient and outmoded traffic control systems and technologies, particularly in the United States as well as in emerging nations, are ripe for new practices and the application of everything from better radar to improved, GPS-linked control tower systems.  Such advancements could greatly improve safety, while reducing delays and enabling shorter, more direct air routes.
A small number of well-funded entrepreneurs are attempting to create supersonic aircraft.  American Airlines has indicated that it will purchase up to 20 supersonic “Overture” aircraft from Englewood, Colorado-based Boom Supersonic.  United Airlines has indicated that it will purchase up to 15 Overtures and taken options on an additional 35.  Japan Airlines was an early investor in Boom.  The Overture is planned to travel at about 1,100 MPH, or about Mach 1.7, with a range of 4,250 nautical miles and a list price of about $200 million.  (See  It is also likely that we will see the use of supersonic business aircraft over the mid-term, by a handful of very wealthy individuals.  Other startups in the supersonic field include Hermeus, as well as Venus Aerospace.
Elsewhere, entrepreneur Elon Musk has outlined a theoretical “hypersonic, rocket-powered aircraft.  The theory is that they might ferry passengers to almost any place on Earth in about one hour, at a top speed between Mach 13 and 15.
Traditionally, advanced aerospace research and development was largely dependent upon military budgets and national government support.  Today, however, it is often the private sector that is developing the most innovative ideas and technologies in aerospace.  Entrepreneurs who are comfortable with taking risks are fueling some of the most dramatic changes.  Richard Branson launched Virgin Galactic, focused on its suborbital vehicles, capable of ferrying tourists to altitudes of more than 50 miles above the Earth.
As for deep-space exploration of the near future, it is likely that the industry will depend largely on the traditional source of funds: government agencies such as NASA, and such funding may or may not be forthcoming.  Nonetheless, some entrepreneurs are keen on the profit potential of commercial mining of minerals on asteroids, which could conceivably be privately funded. 
Entrepreneur Elon Musk is revolutionizing the rocket segment.  His SpaceX firm has shown that rocket bodies can be recovered and reused in a highly efficient manner.  His methods are slashing the cost of putting satellites into orbit.  Jeff Bezos, founder of, has his own reusable space technology at his Blue Origin firm.
One of the largest and most vital sectors of aerospace is satellites.  Miniaturization of electronics, which has already revolutionized the computer and mobile phone sectors, is having a profound effect on the development of micro satellites, with several firms launching revolutionary constellations of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that drive down costs and improve performance in telecommunications and internet service.
3-D printing is beginning to revolutionize the manufacturing sector, and this includes aerospace-related manufacturing.  In addition to novel new uses of 3-D printing by aerospace entrepreneurs, major makers of airliners, rockets and jet engines are finding applications for this fast, exacting and cost-effective method of building components.
The potential for the use of unmanned drones (also known as “UAVs” which stands for unmanned aerial vehicles) has barely been tapped.  Drones can save vast amounts of both time and expense in such applications as agricultural surveying, aerial imaging, industrial factory and safety inspections, and niches such as insurance loss inspections.  Other uses include delivery of packages (even into remote, hard-to-access locales), crime deterrence/investigation, military applications and street/highway traffic control.  The prices of drones are coming down while their capabilities and sophistication are growing.  Meanwhile, governments worldwide are struggling to keep up by creating a regulatory environment that will boost drone innovation while protecting the safety of aircraft that must share airspace with drones.
Massive numbers are drones are now in commercial, military and recreational use worldwide, and their capabilities and range of usage will continue to expand rapidly.  Military units, such as the U.S. Air Force, now train large numbers of specialists as drone pilots, who fly unmanned aircraft carrying weapons and/or reconnaissance cameras from the comfort and safety of military offices.  Such drones are extremely powerful and effective in the right settings.

Key Developments and Technologies to Watch for the Future of Aerospace:
=         Composite Materials for Wings and other Structures
=         3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing)
=         Reusable Rockets and Private Industry Launch Vehicles
=         Small, Reprogrammable Satellites
=         Miniaturization in General
=         Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites
=         Jet Engine Fuel Efficiency Advancements
=         Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communications Combined with Predictive Analytics for Better Maintenance and Operations
=         Advanced Supersonic Designs for Commercial Aircraft
=         Commercial Launch of Innovative Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) Aircraft for Air-Taxi and Personal Use
=         Hybrid-Electric Aircraft
=         Space Tourism
=         Very High Speed Satellite Delivery of Internet Access
=         Widespread Use of Advanced Drones in Agricultural Technology, Construction Inspections/Planning, Public Safety and Industrial Inspections

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