Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are impacting virtually every aspect of aerospace, from drone logistics to planetary missions, enhancing capabilities, efficiency and safety. AI, the computer simulation of human thinking processes such as learning, analyzing and problem solving, involves combining large amounts of data with iterative processing and smart algorithms to build predictive models. In simpler terms, AI leverages computing power to optimize systems and improve human-machine collaboration. The adoption of AI technology is currently found in the design and manufacturing of components, predictive maintenance for engines and other systems, flight path assessment and flight management, flight deck automation, training and simulation, and customer service and marketing.
Aspects of AI have been implemented in fly-by-wire and autopilot systems for decades, playing a complementary role assisting in many pilot functions. While fully autonomous flight is not likely for passenger aircraft in the near future, AI will play an increasing role in streamlining and automating functions across a wide range of civilian and military applications. Drone package delivery, which is particularly complex in urban environments, will be dependent on AI, as well as advanced sensor technology and real-time data transmission, which is imminent with the rollout of 5G wireless communications.
As a decision-making support tool, AI-based modeling may be beneficial in evaluating the feasibility, risk profile and market potential of emerging technologies. Using a form of AI called expert systems, existing pertinent data, machine learning and the latest AI techniques like iterative search strategies, critical path project planning and technology development can be progressively optimized. Deep learning methodology can review existing patents and technologies, estimate the lifespan of a proposed technology, determine if there is a potential opportunity, and even recommend connections to other products.