Established aviation companies must keep pace with innovative ideas from start ups

the development of environmentally friendly mobility concepts will be one of the central challenges of the coming decades/Foto: Dassault Systemes

The development of environmentally friendly mobility concepts will be one of the central challenges of the coming decades. An interesting exhibitor in this field at this year’s Paris Air Show was “Dassault Aviation”, a subsidiary of the multinational software development company “Dassault Systemes”. “Established aviation companies must keep pace with innovative ideas from start-ups that are entering the market”, says CEO David Ziegler.

Mr. Ziegler, Dassault Systèmes is a multinational software development company known for 3D design software, 3D digital mock-up and product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions. The subsidiary Dassault Aviation was founded in 1981. What was the reason for this?

Dassault Aviation’s history goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the company was founded. In the 1980s, Dassault increasingly developed computer programs for design. The launch of the 3D software CATIA also marked the founding of Dassault Systèmes. At that time it was decided to create a new software division in order to develop this new market.

Dassault Systèmes supports Dassault Aviation with its 3D design software start-ups and multinational corporations to break new ground in the field of aviation. Can you give some examples?

Many small and large aerospace companies rely on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. A current example of this is the US company Boom Supersonic, which uses the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to design and develop its supersonic commercial aircraft Overture. This could soon make it possible to travel from New York to London in just over 3 hours. Another example is the French start-up XSun, which presented the prototype of its energy-independent, autonomous and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) SolarXOne SX1.2 at this year’s Paris Air Show. This enables fully automated operations in agriculture, fishing and environmental protection.

How do you envisage this support in concrete terms?

With its 3DEXPERIENCE Lab “Startup Accelerator” program, Dassault Systèmes supports start-ups in bringing their ideas to market within a short period of time. You get access to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform as well as the necessary knowledge and know-how. Furthermore, the 3DEXPERIENCE Twin, a virtual twin within the platform, allows companies to halve prototype production times and make better use of resources. In particular, start-ups with a small budget get a tool to realize their innovative ideas for the future of aviation.

How do you support environmentally friendly mobility concepts?

Sustainability and environmental awareness are values that are strongly anchored in our company. The development of environmentally friendly mobility concepts will be one of the central challenges of the coming decades – whether in aviation or in other industries. Dassault Systèmes sees itself as an enabler of this sustainable industry renaissance. Let’s take the example of a solar airplane: the biggest challenge is that airplanes powered by solar energy should be used not only during the day, but also at night. The solar cells must therefore absorb enough energy not only to power a motor, but also to charge batteries. With our current knowledge, such an aircraft would have to have a gigantic wingspan of 72 meters and at the same time a very low weight of a maximum of 2.3 tons. This makes such an aircraft different from all previous aircraft types. Consequently, every component has to be rethought – from the engine to the fuselage. With the help of virtual simulation in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, it will be possible to test all aspects in advance and ultimately implement this complex project efficiently and cost-effectively.

How can sustainability aspects be included in the development from the very beginning?

As outlined in the above example, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables various criteria to be incorporated into the development of a product right from the start – from design to aspects of logistics such as packaging and transport. This consistency of data enables the product and production of the future to be adapted and optimized to future challenges from the outset. For example, the production of countless “disposable” prototypes, which would be necessary for many development steps, can be dispensed with. The digitization of production thus creates more flexibility in use while at the same time conserving resources.

Do you cooperate with the German Aerospace Center?

We have a strong relationship with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). This is a central component in the development of systems engineering modelling languages such as Modelica, which is part of our engineering application CATIA. We have also established one of our most important innovation centres in the Aerospace & Defense sector at ZAL (Zentrum für Angewandte Luftfahrforschung) in Hamburg. In addition, there is close cooperation between us and the Fraunhofer Institute in various areas of industrial research.

What future challenges do you see for the aviation industry?

The aviation industry will change rapidly in the coming years. We are already seeing more and more start-ups entering the market with innovative ideas. It will therefore be a challenge for large, established aviation companies to keep pace with these changes. At the same time, it is important to bring the new ideas of start-ups to market maturity. In addition, the concept of sustainability will become increasingly important in the future – whether for passengers or manufacturers.

Is it Dassault Aviation’s affiliation with Dassault Systèmes that sets you apart from other aircraft manufacturers?

Dassault Aviation has many years of experience in aircraft construction. Dassault Systèmes in turn has the necessary knowledge and know-how in the simulation and end-to-end digitalization of processes. Both together create a fruitful basis for innovations and ensure their rapid and efficient implementation.

Interview: Johanna Wenninger-Muhr

David Ziegler, Vice President Aerospace&Defense manages Dassault Systèmes’ global business and develops industry-leading solutions based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. He has held several positions in the aerospace industry, most recently with Paris Aéroports. Prior to that, he spent 14 years with Airbus in senior sales and business development positions in France and the USA. Ziegler’s career in aerospace began with a Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Supaero, followed by an MBA from INSEAD.

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