Avio Aero drives innovation by partnering on key technology programmes

Avio Aero is pioneering a number of innovative technologies in engine systems, and linking up with some of the leading manufacturers on key European research programmes designed to make aviation greener and more passenger friendly.

In this video – produced by FlightGlobal as part of a content partnership with the Italian propulsion systems specialist – we find out what Avio Aero is contributing to, and learning from, its technological collaborations with companies such as Airbus Helicopters.

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SIA inaugurates digital innovation lab

Singapore Airlines (SIA) inaugurated a digital innovation lab in Singapore on 29 January, bearing the name ‘KrisLab’.

The lab builds on the airline’s digital innovation blueprint that was launched in 2018, and serves as a collaborative workspace for the SIA Group employees to develop ideas and work with various parties.

Speaking at KrisLab launch, group chief executive Goh Choon Phong says more than 180 ideas were submitted by its employees, with 50 of those ideas being developed into prototypes.

These include predictive maintenance solution, chatbots, mobile application for flying and non-flying employees, virtual reality training, fatigue management, and utilising blockchain technology in payment transactions.

Asked by FlightGlobal on how KrisLab supports the group’s three-year transformation plan, Goh explains that KrisLab’s presence aids in enhancing customer experience, improves its overall operations, and drives efficiency during flight.

“It has ideas that helps us to engage customers better, ideas with predictive maintenance, ideas that help our cabin crew to be more efficient, along with pilots. It spans an entire area and supports what we’re doing in terms of transformation as well,” says Goh.

He goes on to say ideas that are now being developed into prototypes had predated the 2018 digital innovation blueprint announcement. He also stressed that its engagement with external communities on innovation “have taken place” prior to the announcement.

Goh would only say that the group is spending “hundreds of millions” on digital innovation.

Fellow Star Alliance member Lufthansa Group on 28 January inaugurated an innovation hub in Singapore. The facility aims to drive innovation in Asia-Pacific’s travel and mobility sectors, with an option of establishing a similar office in Shanghai later this year.

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JAL invests $70m in new innovation fund

Japan Airlines has made a $70 million investment in establishing a new corporate venture capital fund that will focus on investing in travel-related technology.

The Japan Airlines Innovation Fund will be managed by US venture capital firm TransLink Capital, through which “JAL will proactively act with speed; promote collaboration and co-creation with startup companies featuring state-of-the-art technology.”

It adds that the objectives of the fund are to enhance the product offerings of the airline as a full-service carrier, leverage JAL’s assets to focus on new types of transportation, and strengthen the opportunities for its employees to work alongside startup companies.

The creation of the fund is in-line with JAL’s latest medium-term management plan, which contained strategic goals to innovate its full-service offerings and grow new businesses in adjacent areas.

In December 2017, JAL made a $10 million investment in Boom Supersonic, which is developing a new-generation supersonic jet. It also made pre-commitments to take 20 of the aircraft.

That was followed soon after by the announcement of a “capital and business alliance” with Japanese private space transport company Ispace, which aims to launch two missions to the moon by 2020.

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USAF nominee leaves future of Pentagon innovation office in doubt

A key figure in the Obama administration’s defence innovation strategy organized under the Third Offset initiative will lead the US Air Force’s acquisition office, leaving the future of the Strategic Capabilities Office in limbo.

Will Roper is founding director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, a cornerstone of the Third Offset initiative, which envisions a modern arsenal of swarming unmanned air vehicles, hypersonic weapons and autonomous systems. Unlike the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or the service research laboratories, the SCO would modernize existing platforms in the DOD’s inventory and rapidly develop new technologies. In 2016, Defense secretary Ashton Carter unveiled the “arsenal plane” concept, that would turn an older DOD aircraft into a flying launch pad for multiple conventional payloads.

But even after revealing the arsenal plane idea, the DOD and SCO kept a lid on these activities. In one exception, Roper himself opened up to reporters at DARPA headquarters outside Washington, where he showed off a small UAV called Perdix. Roper also spotlighted Perdix in a “60 Minutes” interview, which showed swarms of the palm-sized, autonomous UAVs.

Roper’s appointment could mean a jolt of innovation for the USAF’s acquisition office, which has not had a civilian in the assistance secretary position since Bill LaPlante left in 2015.

But that still leaves the future of the SCO up in the air. It’s unclear whether a new SCO director would find many allies in the Pentagon today. New DOD leadership under the Trump administration, including deputy defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, has not touted the Third Offset as vocally as Carter or former deputy secretary of Defense Bob Work.

Like any holdover from the previous administration, the SCO may already be tainted as an Obama era initiative, making the office an easy target for Trump’s chopping block. The president’s new national security strategy emphasized protecting the homeland and made no specific mention of the third offset, though the strategy does outline the need to rapidly field technology and break away from an “archaic [research and development] process to an approach that rewards rapid fielding and risk taking.”

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