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Artificial Intelligence Quickly Entering Aerospace Manufacturing

More than 80% of leading executives in aerospace and defense companies expect to see artificial intelligence systems working alongside their human employees in just the next few years.

More than 80% of leading executives in aerospace and defense companies expect to see artificial intelligence (AI) systems working alongside their human employees in just the next few years, according to the latest annual edition of Accenture’s Technology Vision report. 

What is more, Accenture and some of its top-tier aerospace clients already are using AI systems in forecasting and other decision-making processes, freeing up labor to be re-tasked for other projects. The rate of adoption is catching even the consultants off guard.

“This is a big change from last year,” said Jeff Wheless, Accenture’s global research leader for aerospace and defense (A&D). “Four out of five [executives polled] say AI will be there next to humans in the next two years—that’s pretty fast,” he told the Aviation Week Network ahead of the report’s broader release.

According to the report, 70% of A&D leaders expect it to take two years or fewer for new and emerging technology adoption overall. Half of them report already investing in related technology, including AI, “Internet of Things” connectivity, robotics and autonomous machines.

A&D leaders said they see new technology having the greatest effect in their production, security and research and development efforts, in that order. But it will have an impact on more than just day-to-day operations or back-office functions. Four out of five respondents also said they are increasingly using data to drive critical and automated decision-making.

Above all, 94% surveyed said they believe this next generation of technology will be moving into physical environments through increased adoption of augmented reality, connected devices and robotics.

Accenture representatives are reluctant to discuss case examples of clients using the new technology. But John Schmidt, managing director and the global A&D lead, discussed how one leading aircraft OEM was connecting distant engineers and factory managers via augmented reality, cutting down on travel time and costs between the sites.

Nevertheless, executives are cognizant of growing challenges brought by the new technologies, starting with the fact that demands for data sharing will only increase. About 90% of poll takers said their A&D companies expect the data exchanged with major business partners will grow over the next two years.

“We’ve got a lot more data [and] we’ve got data trust issues,” Wheless said.

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