Sourcenginebreadcrumb separatorResource Articlesbreadcrumb separatorIndustry Newsbreadcrumb separator
Top 4 New Innovative Technologies in Aerospace and Defense in 2024

Top 4 New Innovative Technologies in Aerospace and Defense in 2024

An image of a fighter jet flying above a desert

In 2023, the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry witnessed a revitalization in product demand after several years of low performance. Air travel suddenly surpassed pre-pandemic levels and has contributed to larger orders for new aircraft and aftermarket products and services. For defense original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), rising geopolitical volatility and the growing prioritization of modernizing the military through digitalization is fueling orders for electronic components.

According to Edgewater Research analysts, the A&D market will see continued high demand throughout 2024 as air travel begins to follow pre-pandemic growth trajectory and geopolitical instability intensifies. In an article by Deloitte on the 2024 A&D industry outlook, the report states that emerging markets “such as advanced air mobility, are expected to advance testing and certification” processes as new products and services prepare for commercialization.  

The A&D industry is expected to continue embracing innovative technologies to enhance its products and processes as the geopolitical landscape changes and demand grows. Dozens of new technological advances are already changing the landscape with four specific areas seeing the greatest interest among A&D companies.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has quickly become the dominant disruptive technology within the tech industry. Favored by companies in every market from consumer electronics to healthcare OEMs, contract manufacturers (CMs), and electronic manufacturing service (EMS) providers alike, AI controlled most of the chip market demand in 2023. Market research indicates that 2024 will be another year that AI reigns supreme.  

Over the last decade, AI has increased in use within military applications. One of the primary benefits of AI is its most basic ability, which is to automate manual processes, reducing time waste and human errors. The latter can result in life-threatening scenarios in high-reliability industries such as A&D. Unfortunately, human error cannot be eradicated entirely in an all-human workforce. To err is human, after all, but automation helps reduce the occurrence of such risks.

New developments in AI, machine learning (ML), computer vision, and other AI subsets can give users greater depth into collected data to reveal previously overlooked patterns and insights. AI often helps optimize processes through asset utilization and efficiency by identifying opportunities to streamline tasks and cut waste. These complex tasks can usually be done in short timeframes compared to human teams.

Similarly, the gathered data can help organizations make critical decisions quickly with the aid of a more comprehensive view thanks to gathered insights. For example, in aerospace applications, AI can assist human pilots in improving flight safety through advisement. While the human pilot is ultimately in charge of making the decisions, the flight AI can reduce human errors made during flights and improve operational efficiency through flight path recommendations. This would also optimize resource utilization, reducing fuel costs and use.  

Furthermore, A&D AI technology provides a plethora of benefits that go beyond combat usage. Thanks to the implementation of generative AI, new studies have led to improved information processing amongst different military wings.  

U.S. Air Force Colonel Matthew Strohmeyer recently spoke with Bloomberg about the success of his data-based exercise using a large language model (LLM) to perform an information request. The test was highly successful, and its rapid information processing completed the request in minutes when it usually takes staff several hours or days to complete.  

This processing speed would be a massive boon to extremely time-sensitive requests, such as casualty care and evacuation plans, where strategic decisions in high-stress situations would prevent excessive casualties. Total implementation of generative AI and other LLMs is still in the distant future, however, continued testing by officials like Strohmeyer are illuminating new ways AI can benefit all military sectors.

Over 2024, A&D OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers will likely continue looking for new ways to utilize AI in developing technology. The AI market is expected to grow through 2024 with the same voracious demand it encountered in 2023.

2. Sustainable Technology

Concerns about climate change and the impact of billion-dollar weather events have contributed to many organizations pursuing more sustainable processes and technology. Every industry, including the chipmakers themselves, is working hard to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint.  

Since the signing of the Paris Agreement, A&D companies and others have set aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water waste, and energy to meet their interim 2030 sustainability targets. This contributes to a push toward more alternative energy sources, such as electric flight technology, to curb emissions. Aerospace companies specifically are pursuing more energy-efficient integrations and designs to reduce emissions and fuel costs.  

One company, Metafuels, is developing alternative fuels for aerospace operations. Its proprietary technology, aerobrew, converts green methanol into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Metafuels reports that this technology reduces the carbon footprint of air travel fuel use by 80% in comparison.

RTX, a multinational aerospace and defense conglomerate, is committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. RTX is developing new aircraft components and equipment designs to minimize weight and maximize energy efficiency. These new innovations will hopefully reduce fuel burn by 3% per flight by 2035. By 2050, RTX hopes to improve fuel burn by 8% per flight.  

Overall, aerospace sustainability through alternative fuel or other methods, such as for electric, hybrid, hydrogen, and solar-powered propulsion technologies, are driving most of the sustainability momentum. According to Deloitte, a prominent U.S. defense contractor has “strategically invested in an electric propulsion solutions provider to drive the development of electric aviation solutions. The A&D industry should anticipate further opportunities to apply these technologies in the defense sector, as well as in maritime and aviation applications.”

Notably, growing military vehicle electrification is contributing to the greater push for military application sustainability. The market value for military vehicle electrification is forecasted to grow from $4.1 billion in 2023 to $20.4 billion by 2030. That is an impressive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.6% over seven years. Similarly, like AI, investment in sustainable technology applications has only just begun to scratch the surface.  

Over the next decade, new solutions to further reduce the A&D industry’s carbon footprint are likely to increase.  

3. Advanced Satellite Technology

There has been a rising interest in space activity and applications, primarily due to notable business founders, such as Tesla’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, heavily investing in space travel. While the news focuses mainly on the developments of these organizations’ spacecraft endeavors, more notable advances are occurring within satellite technology.

Satellite launches are the main technology behind most commercial space activities. According to a recent report by Allied Market Research, “the global satellite industry size generated $286.0 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to generate $615.7 billion by 2032, witnessing a CAGR of 8.1% from 2023 to 2032.”

The primary growth driver for the industry is due to the low cost of launching satellites into orbit and the evolving need for geospatial intelligence and satellite imagery. In satellite technology, miniaturization is becoming a rising star. Miniaturization enables pico- and nanosatellites that are easily launchable and scalable. The push for miniaturization in the satellite industry is contributing to the overall decrease in launch cost.

Similarly, the need for global connectivity via the Internet of Things (IoT) is contributing to the demand for the expansion of satellite-based communication systems. Satellite internet constellation Starlink, operated by SpaceX, Tesla founder Elon Musk’s space company, has been one of the more noteworthy companies in this market. Over the last few years, Starlink has been able to bring the internet to previously unconnected areas thanks to its satellite array.  

Start-ups in the UK and South Africa, Citadel Space Systems and Dragonfly Aerospace, respectively, are developing new methods to reduce the cost of satellite launches and new platforms. Citadel Space Systems specifically manufactures pico- and nanosatellite platforms for commercial and scientific applications. The start-up’s smallest platform, Squire, is equipped with an onboard computer to make rapid calculations on deep space missions.

Its other platforms aid mission-specific capabilities for research, discovery, and education applications. This data can be utilized to help develop new pico- and nanosatellite technology to improve the range of internet connectivity further.  

4. Additive Manufacturing  

Previously, additive manufacturing (AM) was mainly limited to consumer markets or non-essential aerospace components, such as interior parts with minimal mechanical stressors. Over the past few years, new developments in metal 3D printing have made considerable leaps, and AM has become a significant aerospace manufacturing technology.  

A benefit of additive manufacturing is the ability for aviation companies to leverage low-volume production cost-effectively. Smart materials allow manufacturers to deliver stronger and lighter alternatives to parts created from conventional materials, reducing the cost of transport and design. Lighter alternatives allow aerospace OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers to develop prototypes quickly, reducing development roadblocks while improving efficiency.  

In a 2023 study published in ScienceDirect, researchers detailed the use of additive manufacturing in military applications, including armor and ballistic-resistant structures. The study concluded that the devices' advantages were innovation, low costs, and manufacturing, but limitations, such as unclear regulations preventing such designs from reaching civilians, were a primary challenge.  

The study went into detail on the ways AM can revolutionize defense manufacturing. 3D printing and other AM technologies allow for rapid prototyping with quick iteration and testing of designs before mass production. Similarly, military units can print spare parts on demand, reducing the dependence on supply chains and logistics.  

The capability to produce parts on-demand is a highly desired boon in a post-pandemic world, where global shortages greatly impacted various markets, from semiconductors to toilet paper. Being able to circumvent traditional supply chains could prevent the same challenges that impacted aid efforts throughout 2022-2023. Even more significant, AM technology could produce parts that are unavailable or obsolete from conventional manufacturers.

Grand View Research Inc. data states that “the global additive manufacturing industry could balloon to $76.16 billion by 2030. This represents a CAGR of 20.8% — far outpacing the trajectory of the broader manufacturing sector.”

Furthermore, another benefit of AM in defense manufacturing is that using additive technology to print single, seamless parts compared to traditional multi-part welding could dramatically increase vehicle resistance and survivability.  

So far, the slow adoption of AM technology in A&D industries can be surmised by the lack of understanding of what AM can offer. However, with the continued exposure to supply chain disruptions, many organizations are starting to realize AM’s potential.  

Sourcing the Needed Parts to Power New Innovations

Breakthroughs in advanced technology are helping fuel demand recovery for electronic components. Semiconductors are the superpowered brains behind these tech developments, and continued implementation of the latest in A&D tech will depend on how easily available the resources necessary to build the various technologies are. A secure and robust supply chain is needed to ensure A&D OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers have access to a steady stream of microelectronics.

Sourceability is a leading global distributor of electronic components with a portfolio of digital tools to help streamline and de-stress component sourcing. Sourceability’s e-commerce site, Sourcengine, is the premier site for purchasing electronic components. With over 3,500 franchised, authorized, and qualified third-party suppliers, Sourcengine has +1 billion part offers on high-performing and scarce components.  

Sourcengine’s bill-of-materials (BOM) management tool, Quotengine, can help quickly find hundreds of part offers once you upload your BOM to the site. Once the part offers come in, users can filter them based on specific requirements such as manufacturer and price.  

If you can’t find what you need on Sourcengine or our other robust tools, Sourceability’s team of industry experts will help locate these hard-to-find electronic components. Send our team an RFQ for the parts you need but can’t find and our talented team will send you a personalized quote for those scarce components.  

The A&D industry is one of the few expected to see the most growth in 2024 due to geopolitical factors and growing demand for air travel. As the semiconductor market returns to normal, OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers must ensure they have a disruption-resilient supply chain.  

Get in contact with Sourceability’s global team of experts today to kick off your next project.

Quotengine: Your Ultimate BOM Tool
With Quotengine’s real-time data on over 1 billion part offers, managing your BOM effectively has never been simpler.
Upload Your BOM
What’s Your Excess Worth?
Real-time market data, quick response time, and unique price offers to help you maximize your return on excess inventory.
Get an Estimate
The Last Integration You’ll Ever Need
Streamline manual processes and gain real-time access to inventory data, pricing updates, and order tracking through Sourcengine’s API
Sign-up Here
Sourcengine’s Lead Time Report
Strategize for upcoming market shifts through lead time and price trends with our quarterly lead time report.
Download now
Sourcengine’s Lead Time Report
Strategize for upcoming market shifts through lead time and price trends with our quarterly lead time report.
Download now