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2019 Paris Air Show: The Future of Aircraft is Electric and Connected

The 2019 Paris Air Show heralded the next era of aircraft evolution as electronics take a leading role in navigation, control, power management, and comfort.

Humanity has reached new highs in air travel. As you read this, about 10,000 planes are circling the planet, with 5,000 over the US alone, a number that is expected to double in the next 20 years. Commercial space flights are getting closer to reality as Virgin Galactic and Space X develop space tourism programs. On a smaller scale, a man surfed the skies above France’s 2019 Bastille Day celebrations on an aerial hoverboard, or flyboard, designed in conjunction with the French military. That’s what’s new under the sun. So, what’s coming next? Connector companies at the 2019 Paris Air Show exhibited components designed to enable the next generation of commercial, military, and personal aircraft.

The world’s biggest aeronautics show brought nearly 140,000 visitors from 98 countries to Paris in late June, and the main attraction was the chance to check out 141 full-sized aircraft, ranging from drones and helicopters to military fighting machines and commercial jets. On the exhibition floor, the technology inside these machines promised evolutionary changes to aircraft. Two major trends — connectivity and electrification — dominated the show. Enhanced electronics are bringing greater precision, control, capability, and comfort to the navigation, power management, controls, and cabin experience of modern aircraft, and the 2019 Paris Air Show heralded what some are calling the next era of aircraft evolution: the transition to hybrid and electric aircraft.

2019 Paris Air Show - Amphenol booth

The Amphenol booth at the 2019 Paris Air Show

The global aviation industry spends $180 billion a year on fuel and electric systems have the potential to dramatically bring those operating costs down, as well as diminish their impact on the environment. Several solar-powered planes, battery-powered planes, and hydrogen planes were on display at the 2019 Paris Air Show. The Isreali company Eviation Aircraft exhibited a nine-person plane that can travel 650 miles on a single charge. Called “Alice,” the planes will start serving US regional carrier Cape Air by 2022. The UK’s Rolls-Royce purchased the electric and hybrid-electric aerospace propulsion business of Germany’s Siemens in anticipation of electrification. Other hybrid and propulsion electrification projects are coming in the next few years from Airbus, Boeing, and JetBlue (with Zunum Aero), and newly merged companies United Technologies and Raytheon. Even so, mass adoption of electrification remains a distant goal. In the immediate term, electronics content in aircraft is focused on navigation, comfort, and connectivity. Companies including Amphenol Air LB, TTI, TE Connectivity, Fischer Connectors, Harwin, and SOURIAU displayed connector, sensor, and cables innovations for aerospace applications.

The TTI booth at the 2019 Paris Air Show

“The 2019 Paris Air Show was a success on all fronts from our perspective. From the leading-edge technology that was debuted to the trade imbalance update from US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the opportunity to meet with so many of the great original equipment manufacturers who are dedicated to ensuring the aerospace industry remains strong and safety-focused,” said Roger Raley, VP, TTI Americas, Mil/Aero Market Segment. “TTI was originally founded to serve the interests of the military and aerospace industry; we have continued to maintain a particularly broad and deep inventory of high-reliability IP&E components. This year at the airshow we were joined by our good friends and partners from Harwin, PulseR, and TE Connectivity.”

The TE Connectivity booth at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

TE Connectivity’s “Fast Track to the Connected Aircraft” presentation focused on connectors, wire and cable assemblies, and power management relays and contactors designed to support applications like in-flight entertainment (IFE) and cabin systems, avionics, flight controls, jet engine, and power management. TE also streamed a webinar presentation on “What’s Powering the Future of Flight” that addressed the technical hurdles the industry needs to solve to enable the new age of hybrid and electric powered flight to enable flying taxis, pilot-less drones, space tourism, and low-earth orbit satellite networks.

Solutions emphasized size and weight reductions, signal integrity improvements, and integration of technologies that enhance connectivity across aircraft and between aircraft and command and control centers. TE displayed its sensor offerings, integrated subassemblies, and fiber products, in addition to connectors like the DEUTSCH EN4165 and ARINC 800P2, CeeLok FAS-X, and high-speed fiber optic connectors.

TE Connectivity products on display at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

Amphenol Air LB displayed airframes and avionics, including in-flight entertainment cabin systems, engine and landing gear, and eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) systems. The company displayed the components it offers for these programs, including connectors, wire harnesses, RF cable assemblies, flex PCBs, and high-speed optics. Amphenol’s innovative CC5516 lightweight cable clamps generated special buzz at the company’s booth,” said Pierre Krawtchenko, marketing manager. “The emergence of the eVTOL market gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our products and concepts for this exciting new area. The show is also a great occasion to meet customers, develop our relationships, and generate new business opportunities.”

Amphenol cable harnesses, SIM EN4165 connectors, and CC615 Series lightweight cable clamps on display at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

Radiall’s theme for the 2019 Paris Air Show was “Time Flies,” which highlighted the rate-enabling technology that many of the company’s products enable. The company’s booth featured iEPX, self-lock connectors, SMP-Lock, LuxCis Airnc 801, and other products that serve the connectivity needs of the aviation industry. The company also displayed some of the robots in use at its manufacturing facilities.

2019 Paris Air Show Radiall booth

The Radiall booth at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

“For Radiall, the 2019 Paris Air Show served as the big European showcase for our product offerings and solutions. We view this annual event as a place to strengthen our relationships with our customers and to gauge potential industrial and technological trends,” said Yahve Rosales, vice president of sales – EMEA at Radiall. “This year, we had visits from all major OEMs and distributors with whom we already have or are actively developing business opportunities across Europe. Companies such as TTI, Airbus, Thales, Safran, and Dassault were with us. This shows how important Radiall is to these giants, which is a testimony of the already strong presence and intimacy we have developed in the region.”

This spirit of cooperation and collaboration was in evidence across the show. In many instances, diverse electronics companies collaborated to devise integrated solutions — a fitting effort for technologies that will ultimately operate in global airspace.

Like this article? Check out our other New Technology articles, our 2019 Article Archive, and our Transportation and Mil/Aero market pages.

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Amy Goetzman

Managing Editor at ConnectorSupplier.com
Amy Goetzman made her first foray into the world of connectors and electronics two decades ago, when she helped Alice Tanghe edit The Inside Line, an early and influential publication for the connector industry. She’s worked for a diverse array of publications and companies, and has written about global logistics, architecture, building materials, science, technology, and the arts. She has contributed to Connector Supplier for the past 10 years, and is very pleased to formally join the Bishop family of publications as a managing editor. Amy has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in English from the University of St. Thomas. You can reach her at amy@connectorsupplier.com.
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