The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Digital Transformation

As engineers in the aerospace industry, we are always pushing toward the next horizon, the next frontier, and the next innovation that will unlock value and benefits. Digital transformation is one of the most powerful approaches available today and AIAA believes we should accelerate our use of digital engineering tools across the community.

The Institute is building the foundation for digital transformation in aerospace. One building block is being led by the AIAA Digital Engineering Integration Committee (DEIC) through its series of papers that define terminology, quantify value, and establish references for everyone in the aerospace community.

The community is responding with high energy and interest. We’ve seen a strong response to the papers, with thousands of AIAA members and nonmembers downloading the papers as they have been released. (See box for download information.) This is a positive signal affirming our focus on digital engineering as part of the AIAA Domain Approach through the Aerospace R&D Domain, currently led by Scott Fouse.

The momentum is building around digital engineering as we witnessed during popular sessions held at both the 2023 AIAA SciTech Forum and the 2023 AIAA AVIATION Forum. During our opening keynote address at AIAA AVIATION Forum, we were privileged to hear from Istari CEO Will Roper (former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) on digital engineering. We see how his predictions for aviation’s and aerospace’s digital future can be manifested:

• The industry will have an infinite appetite and applications for aerospace performance data.
• We will use multiple, expanding, and competing approaches for developing and using “digital sources of truth.”
• Digital processes will streamline, automate, and lead product development across the aerospace industry.
• Aerospace players will win, lose, and recover digitally.

Dr. Roper also emphasized how the aerospace community can learn from other industries such as Formula 1 racing. We can and must learn rapidly from whomever possible and apply the technologies and skills quickly. Other markets and industries are moving more quickly than aerospace with digital engineering. Aerospace must pick up the pace.

As a natural next step, we will conduct digital engineering sessions built for attendees from civil, commercial, and national security space sectors during 2023 ASCEND, 23–25 October, Caesars Forum, Las Vegas, Nevada. These sessions are part of the powerful program offered at this event, which will provide an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue and collaboration with each other, as well as attendees from adjacent industries, on topics that cut across all our projects, programs, and research. It is imperative that these critical discussions continue to evolve for our industry to enhance our competitiveness. Digital engineering is a key method by which we as an industry continue to “work at the speed of the marketplace” and more rapidly and efficiently bring our products to market for the benefit of all.

As the Institute continues supporting and leading our community to adopt digital engineering more broadly, we are grateful for the efforts of the members of the AIAA DEIC and the AIAA Public Policy Committee. They have collaborated with the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the Americas Regional Steering Committee of the International Association for the Engineering Modelling, Analysis and Simulation Community (NAFEMS). We also appreciate the substantial contributions by the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) Patterns Working Group and the Digital Twin Consortium, a community of the Object Management Group (OMG).

Such collaboration and important partnerships are how AIAA brings forward the crucial value to our industry and society as a whole.

Papers Available for Download on the AIAA Website
Digital Thread: Definition, Value, and Reference Model (June 2023)

Digital Twin: Reference Model, Realizations & Recommendations (January 2023)

Digital Twin: Definition & Value (December 2020)

Additional AIAA Digital Engineering Resources
Foundations of Digital Engineering – Online Short Course (11–14 September 2023)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Digital Transformation