In the current economic climate, when all the news we see is about job losses, decline and closures it’s easy to forget that the UK has some great success stories.
Take the UK aerospace sector. A recent article in the Engineer by Jon Excell and Stuart Nathan highlights the fact that the UK has the world’s second largest aerospace sector, yet no-one really seems to recognise it.
The UK aerospace sector has bucked the trend of the economic downturn and continues to grow. UK firms design and manufacture some of the most talked about feats of engineering and the UK aerospace industry is recognised internationally as being one of the best in the world.
So, what does the UK aerospace industry produce?
Below are just a few of the areas where the UK aerospace industry is thriving picked up from the report.
The UK aerospace sector has links with many universities who contribute to the development of new technologies. Bristol University has been involved in the development of wings for aircraft such as the Airbus 350. The university has done work focussing on jet engine technologies and the University of Cranfield has worked closely with BAE Systems.
While the UK no longer builds complete passenger aircraft it still designs and manufactures almost all the key components.
The UK exports 75% of what is produces for the civil aerospace industry and generates almost £12bn in revenues. UK firms are heavily involved in developments to make civil aircraft more fuel efficient and remain heavily involved in all areas of wing development.
Publicity about cuts in government spending only increase perceptions that this is an industry engulfed in decline with component parts appearing to be increasingly being produced elsewhere. However, the UK is still a major force with defence aerospace with export sales contributing £35bn a year to the economy. IN addition the UK plays a major role in some of the world’s biggest defence projects.
UAVs (unmanned autonomous/ariel vehicles)
UAS (unmanned aircraft systems), more commonly know as drones, whilst controversial are critical to the aerospace industry. The distinction between the UAS and UAV is that the UAV is just the flying part. The UAS is the whole system including the ground based technology that allows for monitoring and setting mission parameters etc. The UK is an important centre in this area as other countries are finding it increasingly difficult to fund development. The major player in this market in the UK is BAE Systems who have produced a twin engine UAV and are also working on further development programmes for combat aircraft.
Normally the least known section of the aerospace industry, the space industry sector is the fastest growing sector. One of the reasons for this is some of the historical decisions taken to keep the UK out of the public focus of the most visible areas of developments in space. However, the UK is a major contributor to the communications and satellite areas of the space sector and is also involved in the development of the service module for NASA’s Orion Capsule – the manned successor to the space shuttle.
The UK has experience in all areas of development. It’s involved in everything from the development of component parts of a jet engine to the latest potential for 3D printing to produce structural components.
The most known about area is the innovation and design in the production of lightweight composite components. Seen as key to helping achieve efficiency targets the UK’s work in this area is vital.
Are you involved in the aerospace industry? What developments do you see happening in the industry in the future?