What can the established aerospace & aviation industry learn from IT tech start-ups? (Amazon)
Why every aerospace prime wants to become a tech sector start-up - and vice versa… Commentary from TIM ROBINSON
‘The grass always seems greener on the other side’, goes the famous saying. How else then to explain recent oft-quoted desires by the world’s top aerospace companies to emulate Internet start-up and technology firms? Honeywell, for example, wants to become more like Apple. Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders has said that the aerospace industry needs to be more like Google, noting: “I think there is no debate as to which of us is the more vibrant industry. They are". Meanwhile, Boeing Defense’s chief, Chris Chadwick, highlighted car/taxi booking app Uber as an example of combining technology with a new business model. Even No-frills Ryanair has a new ‘Google-style’ HQ with pinball machines, pool table and X360s to inspire creativity in its employees. These established companies see the hip, fast-moving, innovative tech and digital sector as ideal models to rebuild and learn from in the highly competitive 21st century. The aerospace and aviation sector also jealously eyes the high returns that the Silicon Valley tech industry provide to shareholders.
From online to airspace
Search engine to aerospace R&D. Google has been testing UAV delivery. (Google).
Yet, oddly, there is no shortage of traffic in the opposite direction — with Internet and tech firms wanting to move from online to aerospace and even beyond. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is a major funder behind spacecraft company Blue Origin. Facebook and Google are now racing each other and both have bought high-altitude (HALE) UAV projects. Google has also been testing cargo UAVs in its own ‘Skunk Works’, along with Amazon — which has perhaps single-handedly helped changed the public image of a ‘drone’ from a death-dealing Reaper to a friendly multicopter. Perhaps the best example of Internet to aerospace crossover so far is Elon Musk, who, having founded the PayPal online transfer system, is now looking to Mars with SpaceX. SpaceX fuses today’s digital culture with aerospace — creating a young, innovative environment — but also a place where knowledge is valued. It may be a role model — but can every aerospace company be a SpaceX?