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Aerion makes supersonic avionics, connectivity progress for AS2
News/ > 2020/ > Aerion makes supersonic avionics, connectivity progress for AS2/
Aerion makes supersonic avionics, connectivity progress for AS2
28 December 2020 New design progress and supplier agreements for avionics, flight controls and connectivity have the AS2 supersonic business jet on track for type certification by the mid to late 2020s, said Aerion COO Steve Berroth. But the avionics and connectivity partnership with Honeywell Aerospace was just one of series of new technology achievements and partnerships Aerion has embarked in 2020. Other highlight include the selection of advanced design and simulation software Siemens Xcelerator in February to develop a «digital thread» for the AS2's product lifecycle.

The fact is that Aerion Supersonic, is now using digital twin in its most ambitious application: designing and producing the world’s first privately built supersonic aircraft, the AS2 supersonic business jet (SBJ). «… The advent of digital twins offers engineers a technological leap ‘through the looking glass’ into the very heart of their physical assets. Digital twins give us a glimpse into what is happening, or what can happen, with physical assets now and far into the future,» says IBM specialists.

Of course, computer modeling is nothing new. It has been around for years. What’s novel is the power of today’s hardware, combined with AI, to deliver the «twin» element. Machine learning is creating a breathtakingly complex virtual model that is the exact doppelganger of a physical asset.

Digital twins are particularly useful in the aerospace sector, in which incessant testing and incremental improvements literally keep planes in the air.

Tom Vice, CEO at Aerion, explained, «Aerion Supersonic has been built from the ground up as an all-digital environment. With our proprietary multidisciplinary design optimization platform, named Digital Carbon, we’ve teamed up with Siemens to create digital twin technology systems from scratch to design and build a world-class supersonic aircraft.»

According to Vice, digital twinning will impact areas of the company outside of design and maintenance. «We are turning to this technology to achieve operational excellence in the production environment. By creating a virtual twin of the factory floor, we can build aircraft thousands of times before the first airframe takes shape in the real world. This will cut down on scrap, rework, and quality defects. Thanks to this amazing advance, a low-volume manufacturer can achieve the fidelity of high-volume production lines.» >>>
>>> Digital twin technology, along with the constant exchange of data with Aerion SBJs, also will help the company refine its design, enabling new features for customers. «Our platform will help us to be predictive,» said Vice. «If we identify a capability that will benefit consumers, we will push it to the entire fleet in near-real time.»

Using Siemens’ Xcelerator portfolio, Aerion can use advanced design and simulation software to speed aircraft development, as well as achieve superior levels of performance in flight and excellence in operations.

Siemens, via its new software, provides the aerospace and defense industry with a flexible ecosystem that combines both an open software platform and rapid application development to easily build, integrate and extend data and existing systems. Through the Xcelerator portfolio, combined with access to technology and solutions partners across the globe, Siemens has created a series of adaptable digital threads that enable aerospace and defense companies to optimize their operations and win new business, while rapidly adapting to changes in the industry.

«Leveraging the proven Xcelerator portfolio can help Aerion operate as an agile, digital organization and dramatically reduce the time and cost of new aircraft systems development. Siemens is partnering with a range of companies like Aerion, across the aerospace industry, to help create an open and adaptable digital thread across the entire lifecycle of their systems and products,» said Barry Chapman, vice president of Aerospace & Defense and Federal Government, Siemens Digital Industries Software.

«Siemens’ solution portfolio and the strong digital thread connecting each part of our process can help Aerion quickly analyze and optimize innovative design,» added Tom Vice. «We can even model design change impacts on the future carbon footprint of our aircraft, which is critical to our mission of sustainable design.»

Xcelerator combines the full portfolio of Siemens’ software for design, engineering and manufacturing with an expanded Mendix low-code, multi-experience application development platform, therefore anyone in the ecosystem, including citizen developers and engineers to easily build, integrate and extend their existing data and systems. The Mendix platform now includes cloud and app services for digital engineering and Internet of Things (IoT) powered by MindSphere the cloud-based, open IoT operating system from Siemens, in addition to Mendix’s market-leading unified low-code and no-code development environments.

«Siemens has a long history of delivering innovation by blurring the boundaries between engineering and operational domains and bringing together the virtual and real worlds. Xcelerator continues that tradition, combining our full portfolio of software that spans from electronic design automation through product lifecycle management with the Mendix platform and MindSphere for IoT. Unique to Xcelerator is the ability to build personalized applications that can capture feedback and performance and feed those insights back into design and manufacturing,» said Tony Hemmelgarn, CEO, Siemens Digital Industries Software. >>>
>>> Open integration Xcelerator allows for rapid innovation and validation of products and operations by creating the most precise digital twin, which melds model-based simulations with test data and real performance analytics.

In October 2020, the AS2 took physical form for a series of wind-tunnel tests in Georgia and in France. The difference, of course, is that with Aerion, the wind-tunnel tests are a complement to the company’s digital tests, not part of a slow, exclusively real-world testing regimen.

Aerion’s latest development update for its 8-10 passenger jet designed to fly at a max speed of Mach 1.4 includes achieving the joint definition phase of avionics and connectivity with Honeywell Aerospace and a supplier partnership for its fly-by-wire flight control system, including active inceptors from BAE Systems. Both agreements, announced in the same October, will borrow from existing and new aircraft network and pilot user interface systems such as Honeywell’s Forge data analytics platform synced with the initial design of the flight deck.

BAE Systems described the active inceptors it will supply in a September 15 2020 press release as providing pilots with both static and dynamic tactile force feedback where «the active inceptor includes electronic controlled actuators that send tactile feedback to the pilot through the flight stick. The feedback warns pilots of structural or aerodynamic operating limits,» the company said.

«Our plan is three large format, touchscreen displays and three small format iPad-sized displays. The goal here with Honeywell’s avionics development is to use automation and touchscreen interface control where possible to reduce the pilot's workload. We want to achieve unsurpassed levels of situational awareness based upon our different phases of flight, transitioning from transonic to supersonic and Boomless cruise… which will help to achieve type certification by 2027,» Steve Berroth said.

He describes Boomless cruise as a key feature in focus for the avionics that Honeywell will supply for the aircraft. Berroth said it is not new technology, but that the enabling systems needed to allow Boomless cruise only recently became available.

According to Berroth, the concept involves the use of a ground-based system creating an initial flight plan using a high-fidelity weather model and a «trained model,» B, that is computed together to send a flight plan to the aircraft via satellite, VHF data link or a cellular network using Honeywell’s integrated network server unit (INSU). >>>
>>> «There will be an Aerion created application that we will be trademarking that will be hosted within the Honeywell integrated modular avionics that'll combine the ground data and the data from multiple airborne systems to determine a valid Boomless cruise flight plan,» Berroth said.

The key to enabling the Boomless cruise flight plan will be monitoring changes in terrain and weather in near real time to ensure the impact of a supersonic boom never hits the ground when the AS2 is flying over land.

Effectively, at low supersonic speeds, the sonic boom pressure wave can encounter a layer in the lower atmosphere (known as the caustic layer) that acts much like a reflective surface and causes the pressure wave to refract or bend away from that layer. The altitude at which the caustic layer occurs is strongly related to the temperature profile of the atmosphere and the presence of any temperature inversion layers that may exist in the air beneath a supersonic airplane. Because the main factor that causes variations in the atmospheric speed of sound is air temperature.

By knowing what the atmospheric temperature profile is in the volume of air surrounding the aircraft as it flies along its flight plan, the caustic layer can be predicted, and with it, the maximum Mach number that an aircraft can fly such that its sonic boom refracts off the caustic layer.

«It allows us to fly at supersonic speeds, taking advantage of an atmospheric phenomenology called ‘mach cut-off’. Although we still create the sonic boom, it actually refracts off a caustic layer and goes back up. So on the ground you don’t hear it,» said Vice. Pilots will not be able to disengage the Boomless cruise functionality unless they’re flying over the ocean.

Mike Ingram, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Aerospace, said there are some details associated with the AS2’s avionics and connectivity development that they’re unable to discuss at this point.

«What you will see in the cockpit will be very new and something that hasn't been released into the market yet,» Ingram said. «It will be a combination of customizing some of the existing Honeywell Primus Epic software, and leveraging some of the newest touchscreen interface and controller technologies. We will be able to show the best Boomless cruise path for the aircraft based on how our algorithms determine that using the latest updated flight plan information.»

Berroth echoes this sentiment, noting that his vision of the pilot’s user interface for AS2 will be a display that features a «carpet laid out in front of the pilot» showing the optimal flight path for Boomless cruise. >>>
>>>  Upon completion of commercial and programmatic agreement, the avionics suite being developed for the AS2 will represent the next generation of avionics suites for business aircraft featuring:
  • Honeywell’s next-generation, state-of-the-art flight deck — an advanced display system incorporating intuitive symbology, advanced communication and navigation systems, plus flight guidance and management systems.

    All aspects of the new avionics will support supersonic flight and Aerion’s revolutionary Boomless cruise technology, which enables the AS2 to fly at both transonic and supersonic speeds over land with no perceived noise reaching the ground.

  • Honeywell’s advanced connectivity solutions and Honeywell Forge platform, which will enable the AS2 to deliver safety-critical communications, as well as critical aircraft data into information to revolutionize management of aircraft operations and maintenance.
Another design consideration for the AS2’s connectivity system will be the development of an antenna that accommodates Aerion’s goal of reducing aerodynamic drag to achieve Mach 1.4.

«There’s multiple suppliers right now that can provide a connectivity system that meets our stringent performance requirements. There is a very large concern that they need to be conformal antennas so we reduce drag, and there is some development work that needs to go on in that area. We’re working right now with suppliers that can support that kind of design,» Berroth said.

Outside of their ongoing development work with Honeywell and BAE Systems, Aerion is also working with regulators to update regulations for flying supersonic over the continental United States. Currently, that type of flying is not permitted, however, the FAA took action toward allowing supersonic flying with a notice of proposed rulemaking published in March 2020 that updates the requirements for applicants that seek special flight authorization for flying above Mach 1 in the United States.

Aerion plans to begin production of the AS2 by 2023. >>>
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