Simulation and training technology has evolved in several directions in recent years, according to industry representatives, driven by increased interest in new or evolving areas like urban air mobility (UAM).
Different types of simulation are used in various aspects of aerospace, from flight training to engineering, with companies in these different sectors set to have a presence at this year’s Dubai Airshow. Simulation has been used in the commercial aerospace sector for decades, though the past few years have seen “a dramatic increase in the use of simulation in many areas, including electronics, communication systems, and avionics,” said Paolo Colombo, industry director aerospace and defense at ANSYS (Booth 531). The company delivers a multiphysics and multidomain engineering simulation platform to design, validate and certify aerospace components and systems, including advanced avionics, autonomous aircraft and eVTOL platforms. Its product line includes ANSYS Twin Builder, software that allows engineers to build, validate and deploy complete systems simulations and digital twins.
The aerospace industry is facing an exponential rate of change, Colombo said. Concepts like UAM and regional mobility are driving a great deal of interest in electric propulsion and autonomous systems, including the design, testing, certification, and integration of components like motors, cameras, radar, and embedded software.
“The industry lacks experience in some of these newer areas,” Colombo told AIN. “Without simulation, it’s difficult to imagine how engineers could innovate in these highly complex fields. It would be extremely costly and time-consuming.”
Simulation is evolving quickly, Colombo said, with ANSYS releasing three major software releases annually. He said that physics integration has long been a major focus for the company, allowing users to evaluate the phenomena influencing a component or system and predict its behavior in the real world. Additionally, he said, aerospace customers are increasingly using simulation in a cloud-based environment, allowing them greater flexibility in the way they access computational power.
Virtual reality (VR) is also a new and interesting growth area within simulation, Colombo said. For example, test pilots can now sit in front of a physics-based simulation of a cockpit and validate it, while an autonomous aircraft can be flown for millions of miles to evaluate its response to various weather conditions, impacts, inbound traffic, or engine failure.
VR is particularly useful in areas outside flight training, such as helping mechanics to locate particular aircraft components, said Bert Buyle, CEO of Euramec (Booth 1844), a provider of flight training devices for a wide range of aircraft, including the Airbus A320. Buyle said he sees the potential for augmented reality (AR), where computer-generated imagery or text is superimposed over the real world, although he said this is still in the early stages of development. The company is looking into a number of new technologies that could replace certain applications used in simulators, such as building simulators with "virtual instructors" and replicating an increasing number of situations that cannot be trained for in real life.
Kissimmee, Florida-based Aerostar Training Services (Booth 1660e) uses flight training simulators in a number of its courses, with the company training pilots on the Airbus A320, the Boeing 737 and other aircraft. Jerry Lee, Aerostar’s director of admissions, told AIN that graphics technology had seen the most obvious advances in recent years. He also expects to see greater exploitation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the coming years, with the simulators learning how a particular user operates and adapting to meet their training needs. “It’s intriguing," he said. "It’s still in its infancy, but at the same time it’s very interesting.”
The market is evolving, said Colombo, with concepts like electrification moving from the automotive industry into aerospace. This could create new demands for simulation software, he said, adding that although the U.S. remains the dominant market, followed by Europe, “Asia is growing, as improved transportation continues to be a focus.”
Buyle also highlighted the growth of the Asian market, notably China and India. He said that flight training is becoming more sophisticated, with greater demand for recurrent training as new aircraft enter the market. Euramec is designing new products aimed at these pilots, he added.
The company will be presenting its range of simulation products and services at this year's Dubai show, Buyle said, including its new cooperation with GeoSim on helicopter-focused simulators and its new A320 simulator.
Colombo said that simulation can support companies through the growing digital revolution, with the company focused on simulation solutions in new areas like additive manufacturing, predictive maintenance, and autonomous systems. He expects such themes to be highlighted at Dubai.
“Simulation is becoming more and more important to improve engineering efficiency, prove product reliability and safety, and introduce new technology faster,” Colombo said. “The future will see simulation becoming more pervasive, expanding beyond the classical design phase and into production, operations, and maintenance.”