Solving big challenges with aerospace technology

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Executive Director Dan Dumbacher
Dan Dumbacher, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

What is the scope and charter of the AIAA?

AIAA is able to bring together talent from all relevant industries, governments, private institutions and stakeholders to address global issues related to the health of our planet.

AIAA’s “astronautics” arm looks down to earth to monitor the health of the planet and to space to understand threats and discover potential solutions.

The aviation part of the AIAA deals with the implementation of solutions – in this case with the aim of reducing and eliminating CO2 emissions from aircraft.

So what do you think is the most pressing issue?

If you look at what is happening now – for example the increasing severity of hurricanes and wildfires, the abnormal global changes in temperature and precipitation patterns – it is clear that we are getting to the point where we urgently need to evolve and proactively take countermeasures , before it is too late.

Climate science tells us that at some point in the near future we are approaching a tipping point – a point where the damage to the planet will be irreversible. We have little time, we don’t know how much.

This is an unimaginable challenge – how is AIAA dealing with it?

We engage and coordinate with the aerospace sector, including national and international stakeholders – those who set the policies and allocate the public and private sector investment funds to enable the application of aerospace technology to address this existential threat remove.

Next, we will gather many of these great minds at the 2023 AIAA SciTech Forum in National Harbor, Maryland, January 23-27, 2023. We expect over 5,000 participants from across the aerospace industry. We warmly welcome interested parties to join the discussion on these major challenges and others.

What are the central fields of action?

Two main areas – sustainability strategies and developing a skilled workforce – are the fundamental strategies of the AIAA and the aerospace industry’s attack on climate change. The goals are general:

  • Decarbonizing aircraft with sustainable fuel
  • Development of digital (artificial intelligence or AI) solutions to streamline air traffic control
  • Development of new lighter, stronger materials for vehicle structures
  • Accelerating the development of electric air mobility systems for urban and short-haul routes
  • Expanding our knowledge of Earth’s climate response with insights gained from exploring other planets in the solar system
  • Developing programs to engage and channel today’s (and generations to come) young people into tech and STEM education
  • Recruit, train and expand the STEM workforce with more artisans, engineers, scientists, communications professionals, attorneys, accountants, program and business managers. We do this by expanding programs and reaching out to communities not typically involved.

We must take these important steps to understand the overall impact and the efforts that must be made so that we can continue to grow our global economies while protecting planet Earth.

Where are we now and where are we going?

The AIAA has established task forces focused on aircraft decarbonization and the development of autonomous electric aircraft for zero-emission urban air mobility; Further development of digital technology for operational AI and machine learning. The AIAA Foundation addresses and advances STEM education to develop the next generation of scientists, engineers and technicians to create solutions to the challenges we face.

These working groups meet regularly. Their work will contribute to the 2023 AIAA SciTech Forum agenda to ensure this important work advances at the pace of innovation.

Visit the AIAA SciTech Forum 2023 website: aiaa.org/SciTech for more information and a schedule of panels and technical sessions on these topics.

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