Future role of digital twins in the aerospace industry

Key points

    Digital twin advantages in aerospace

    Its uses in the US air force

    Minimizing costs via real-time tracking

By Carlos Miskinis
Digital twin research expert
Jan 2019

The advantages of using digital twin simulations in aerospace


The aerospace industry has been using technology that is similar to Digital Twin for years now. However, it has mostly been used to develop digital models of commercial aircraft in airports and air force jets in order to find ways on how to improve the machine and achieve optimal performance. Moreover, they’ve successfully used the tracking aspect of digital twins to track aircraft across the world in order to ensure the success of their day to day travels by heavily relying on knowledgebase. However, as this technology grows and continues to evolve, more opportunities will start to present themselves that will allow aircraft engineers to be more productive in terms of executing new model tests and when it comes to the commercial aspect of flying, the final user experience of travelers will be more pleasant and safer than it ever was before.



Future impact of digital twin in the US air force


As per Business Wire’s survey report, 75% of air force executives have cast the vote of confidence in favor of the digital twin already. Almost invariably, all these executives are overwhelmed by the amount of available data from products and services that they already use, and they feel that the digital twin technology would be the stepping-stone in overcoming these challenges in the aerospace industry. Additionally, all these executives are utilizing and evaluating the prowess of this technology. Most of them are successfully using this technology for both existing and new products and services, while others are employing it for temporary aircraft testing only. You can find out more about the uses of the technology by attending our gathering that will be held in London called – Virtual Twin IoT Workshop where we will dive deep into the most promising use cases of simulations for aircraft engines.


A fully functional digital twin offers comprehensive and predictive analytics. For example, an aircraft incorporated with this technology would be able to predict future engine failures based on previous data it has accumulated. It would enable the engineers to look into the potential problem prior to any danger whether it would involve completely re-testing the airframes of an aircraft, testing its engine or doing any further security checks to ensure the safety of the people onboard. The conventional control rooms also have various predictive analytics, but the integration of the digital twin would enhance the efficiency to deal with any danger looming around the corner. Briefly, the technology enables engineers to not only operate effectively, reducing testing costs but also to maintain and repair systems when they aren’t within physical proximity to them.


Part 2

Exploring the potential of incorporating this technology in airports

With the precision and accuracy digital twin simulations provide, flight times can be measured more optimally

Aircraft digital twin tracking and development potential in airports


NASA faces various missions where the developing systems travel beyond the ability to track or monitor them digitally using their standard tracking systems. A well-structured digital twin of an aircraft or a rocket ship would allow for tracking with 147% more accuracy that would track the aircraft for longer proximities. NASA is already harnessing the power of the digital twin to craft flawless blueprints, roadmaps, and next-generation vehicles and aircraft. Conclusively, it’s the principle of evolution – when everything around you changes, so must you. The digital twin is precisely the type of innovation that has made the aerospace industry evolve and adopt change. The IFS executive cites a study by the IT consultancy IDC that estimates investment in digital twinning yields a 30% improvement in cycle times of critical processes, including maintenance. “In 2018, expect to see more benefits as the technology matures”.


The aerospace industry is yet to fully incorporate the digital twin interfaces to achieve better performance. Contrary to the air force and military, they’re still hesitant to fully depend on Digital Twin when it comes to some of the most crucial aspects that they must depend on such as aircraft tracking, development, and testing. Despite all of that, there is definite progress when it comes to adopting the technology therefore, it’s only a matter of time before they develop Digital Twin for it to be mature enough for use in the aerospace industry.


Click the link below to see our next workshop on Digital Twins:


In order to witness the true power of the technology’s capability to model and optimize aircraft engines, map out airports and further optimize the industry, join us at our event where we will discuss this in exceptional detail – secure your seat here.


Part 3

Optimizing aircraft maintenance using digital twin simulation data

With the ability to monitor aircraft performance using digital twin, airplane maintenance processes will transform


Improving the maintenance of aircraft using virtual twin simulations for AMVAC


The biggest challenges that the aerospace industry has to face is the maintenance of aircraft and its parts. It takes an immense amount of effort to ensure that all of the parts of an aircraft are ready to perform well. To do these checks, a massive amount of workforce needs to be allocated prior to every single takeoff of a commercial or a privately held plane in order not to jeopardize the safety of the passengers. Every single check has to be done thoroughly by qualified specialists and because of that, every airplane that operates in an airport has a “ceiling”. That ceiling is the amount of focus and attention the machinery has to get to ensure nothing will go wrong. Although the current internal processes that are being used to inspect aircraft make the job much easier, they are still limited as they do not have the features that Digital Twin has.


For instance, simulations that are created via virtual twinning allow direct, real-time monitoring of the health and structure of plane parts – this revolution can reduce the need for manual examination of aircraft engines down to zero. In addition, by having complete vision on the part durability of an aircraft in real-time, the overall lifespan of a plane or its engine can be determined within seconds – the accuracy of the lifespan estimates can be down to minutes. This, of course, presupposes that the entire plane is fully and correctly “twinned” and all sensors are installed as they should be. By having such transparency on every single aircraft that takes off the ground, life-threatening scenarios can be prevented. For instance, if the digital twin interface is clearly indicating that the overall life of an engine is going to end in 2 weeks time, specialists can release orders to not allow the vehicle to leave the airport.


This feature of digital counterpart technology is a great example of how we have helped one of the biggest industry leaders in agriculture called AmVac with their goal to increase the effectiveness of their aircraft they are actively using for monitoring commercial crop fields. The company was struggling with the same problem we are talking about above – need for high maintenance, poor durability of aircraft parts, resulting in capped performance for their clients all across the board. In order to help them fix this issue, we have leveraged the power of our private network of industry leaders that are utilizing digital twin technology to its fullest extent and manufactured a blueprint that familiarized them with how virtual twin works. By working with them during their journey of manufacturing a virtual replica of their aircraft engine, we have continuously “handheld” them throughout every single step they need to take. The end result? A fully functional digital counterpart of their farm field aircraft that constantly monitors the overall health of the machine.


AmVac now has the ability to cut down the focus and workload that was previously needed to keep their operations going smoothly and reallocate it towards other processes such as developing new solutions for improving the efficiency of farmers that could allow them to use their virtual twin more effectively. According to the report they have released publicly, the partnership was a huge success from their perspective – we couldn’t agree more. Besides the fact, that they have managed to increase their profitability and efficiency in terms of marketing their aircraft service, they also have gathered valuable data they have collected using our digital twin solution that can be used to help other companies around the world whether it would be in a manner of selling the data or displaying it in order to contribute without charging for it.



Utilizing the simulation technology to optimize load


Besides some of the biggest obvious benefits the virtual counterpart technology has to offer to the aerospace industry such as completely automating maintenance and monitoring part durability, the third biggest advantage of it is that by having full transparency on the components of an aircraft, engineers are able to see which parts are experiencing weight strain. For instance, an aircraft that carries cargo often has a lot of limitations in terms of how many goods it is able to carry without imposing any risks to flight attendants or compromising the safety of the airplane itself. At the moment, it is virtually impossible to make an accurate estimate of exactly how many goods can be carried without increasing risks. Because of this, pilots must underperform and fly with less cargo to ensure safety. However, if they would start twinning aircraft and work on simulating flights, they could accurately assess how many goods the plane is able to carry with extreme accuracy down to every single gram.


Now, you might think that this sounds too good to be true and to some extent, it is, but not in terms of the capabilities of the technology. Simply put, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration when judging the overall weight a plane can carry during travel. Some of those factors include weather conditions and air pressure that is present on certain heights most cargo planes fly in. Virtual Twin cannot exactly simulate weather, but it can gather data with every single flight an aircraft experiences and then take the gained intel to make accurate stipulations that are then thrown into the equation of determining weight limits. Put it this way – the more data the digital algorithm gathers, the more accurate the estimates are. It is only a matter of executing a couple of dozen flights with an aircraft before the data of digital twin can be fully trusted.


Let us give you a prime example of the current situation in terms of airplane weight monitoring. Every single aircraft that is designed to carry people or cargo have a set weight standard which is calculated manually. The Boeing 737-800 has a maximum load weight of 80,000 kilos on average. The problem is that it is only an average and most likely the weight is underestimated. By using a virtual twin, the exact weight can be determined in real-time. The truth is, we have already conducted such tests for our partners here at Challenge Advisory. By using digital simulations that are directly connected to aircraft, we have revealed that the total load weight can be increased up to 23% and that the standard weight limits that are imposed on flight operations tend to be far off from reality. 23% of increased load weight is a huge deal for any aerospace service company out there, especially when you consider the fact, that it can be increased 100% safely, without compromising safety.

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