Overcoming Complexity in Aerospace Systems

Connor O'Brien | May 6, 2014


Aerospace systems are among the most complex in the world, providing precision to some of the most difficult objectives on the planet. Not only must these systems perform, but they also demand security, safety and consistent quality. A rigorous requirements process and need to deliver scalable innovation faster requires the ability to produce a product that is secure and traceable. A perfect example is long-range UAVs like those designed by Titan Aerospace. The company, recently acquired by Google, creates solar powered vehicles which can reportedly stay aloft for 5 years. Requiring similar quality standards, streaming HD video cameras recently installed on the International Space Station by Urthecast, will stream real time video for all to see.

From the smallest of components to cutting edge technologies, systems are becoming inherently more complex. With the growing trend in the aerospace industry to develop system software that manage much of the work on aircrafts, such as those created by Rockwell Collins, processes will need to advance in order to stay compliant and to ensure systems and tools are wholly reliable and safe. That being said, processes themselves are becoming more technical and complex. Without the proper tools in place, we can expect to see large-scale products delivered to market then recalled, or never delivered to market at all. We only need to look at the recent groundings of the Dreamliner 787 or the stagnation of the F-35 to find a lack of clear definition and alignment as an example of what can happen without tools that help to coordinate and streamline the Product Development Lifecycle.

As Vigor Yang, chair of the School of Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology has noted, “The aerospace profession has expanded from hardware-based science, technology and engineering to systems and even systems of systems-based engineering.” As the industry continues to deliver more and more complex systems, software and hardware to market we must find tools that can not only help us with speed to market but must be able to align processes in order to handle the complexity of projects and products.

Read more from Connor O’Brien about aerospace innovation and reuse. To learn more about the challenges of speed, complexity and alignment, read our Forrester Consulting report, The State of Modern Product Delivery.  

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