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  • Gary Pine

Digital Twins and Digital Aviation

Updated: Feb 19, 2023

It’s evident that the circumstances of the aerospace and aviation industry have changed dramatically in recent times.

Arguably, commercial aviation is one of the pandemic’s most severely affected industries in terms of critical disruption and gross losses.

Carriers need to be more agile than ever, just to survive.

Passenger experiences have rapidly become contactless, and technologies capable of delivering the aviation services that we now need are being fast-tracked.

Given that the numbers don’t lie, the airlines are tactically restructuring the economics of their workforce and destination networks, airports are constantly adapting to changing demands, and industry supply-webs are in a critical state.

In early 2018, BOXARR entered a collaboration with Cranfield University, Thales, Saab, Aveillant, and other industry partners to create the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC); a £67M state-of-the-art facility to spearhead the UK’s research into advancing digital aviation.

The premise of DARTeC being to create a centre of excellence for knowledge transfer; awareness of industry trends; inspiration from application-derived discussions; quicker test and validation routes for innovative concepts; faster routes to market and up-take of new technology developments.

With digital aviation often being cited as being the next significant business transformation event for the sector, the BOXARR team outlined five guiding principles for DigitalTwin to support DARTeC R&D at the time:

  1. Enable DARTeC Consortium members to access and utilise BOXARR DigitalTwin software for DARTeC approved projects

  2. Enable stakeholders and knowledge-experts from across DARTeC to more effectively collaborate

  3. Effectively share and collaborate on DARTeC projects whilst protecting respective IPR

  4. Identify and mitigate risks; build resilience; and reveal opportunities for enhancement

  5. Empower DARTeC projects with a DigitalTwin asset to adapt and inform within an evolving landscape

At that stage, no one would have foreseen the COVID-19 crisis and how this would bring about an accelerated rate of change in the way companies in all sectors and regions do business. In a post-pandemic world, there are both new challenges to contend with and, new opportunities to grasp.

According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, their companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years.

And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years.

The Doors Open

The Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) was officially opened at the Cranfield campus on July 14th, 2021, by Business Secretary of State, Kwasi Kwarteng.

In addition to innovations in core technologies such as radar and communications, and the development of drones and pilotless aircraft; at the forefront of the digital aviation revolution is the adoption of emerging ‘smart’ technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotics, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) recognition, and of course: Digital Twins.

By accelerating the R&D of such technologies, DARTeC is enabling the aerospace and aviation industry to benefit from the much-needed partnerships with its consortium members such as BOXARR to reimagine and build the future of aviation and the passenger experience.

As the foundation that enables BOXARR’s business to thrive in this new landscape, it was the perfect time to review our technology roadmap, and review how our product development has better equipped us to further help and support the DARTeC program in the future:

  • With the development of our interactive Dashboards, the value provided by BOXARR’s Digital Twinning capability is now more accessible for a broad operational userbase across the customer enterprise.

  • The development of our new JSON API enables BOXARR platforms to readily exchange data with other customer information systems or real-world data feeds in the future.

  • The development of our ‘federated workflow for collaborative modelling’ now provides the management capabilities to facilitate the collaborative evolution and sharing of our DigitalTwin Models.

In turn, using DARTeC's state-of-the-art high-performance synthetic computing environment, consortium members and customer organisations utilising BOXARR DigitalTwins can leverage vast computing power to tackle the massive levels of complexity involved in “real-world” problems.

We will be leveraging our experience in building BOXARR DigitalTwin solutions for adoption by industry including case studies and use-cases such as:

  • Supply-web resilience and assurance

  • Process / Production mapping and optimisation

  • Organisational and Operational transformation planning

  • Investment to capability assurance

  • Through-life asset modelling

  • Net Zero and Sustainment modelling

  • Infosystem/Data aggregation, visualisation, and analytics

Although much of the world may have moved out of the first phase of the pandemic, the aviation industry is still struggling to get back on its feet.

Hence, as the future of aviation becomes increasingly reliant on technology, the integration of contactless/remote operations and widescale digitisation is essential for its revival.

DARTeC consortium partners include Aveillant, Blue Bear Systems Research, Boeing, BOXARR, Connected Places Catapult, Cranfield University, Etihad Airways, Heathrow, Inmarsat, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the IVHM Centre, Saab, Satellite Applications Catapult, Spirent Communications, and Thales, with co-investment support from Research England.

Along with our consortium partners, BOXARR is committing to drive the innovation and development of solutions that aid the recovery and the advancement of digital aviation, both here in the UK and internationally.


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