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The past several years have seen the rise of asymmetric tactics. As this becomes more common place, countering it demands a different type of approach. And this approach often involves new technology. One such area of rapid technology development has been in the field of autonomous systems – systems that can act independently or as part of manned-unmanned teams. This can be particularly useful in very hazardous situations and terrain. The very nature of asymmetric tactics means that they can be adapted very fast – so any countermeasures must be developed very quickly. And this is where simulation comes in.

ANSYS, the industry leader in engineering simulation, has been pioneering the use of simulation to accelerate the development of autonomous, self-driving cars with companies like BMW and is able to translate the same technology stack for autonomous air vehicle applications. So, ANSYS was successful in creating a new partnership with Airbus Defence and Space in the Franco-German FCAS (Future Combat Air System) project, said Paolo Colombo, ANSYS’ Aerospace & Defence Global Industry Director. The FCAS initiative will be based on a system of fully automated remote air platforms teamed with revolutionary next-generation fighter jets. A unique opportunity for ANSYS, the initiative will encompass a completely new ‘system of systems’ approach, consisting of manned/unmanned collaboration and use of different weapons, sensors, and communications means. However, collaboration with Airbus is not new, Paolo Colombo said.

“Innovation and refinement are vital when providing solutions for projects like this,” he suggested. Speaking to MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MT) in August, he explained how constant improvement and the incorporation of new technology will influence programmes like FCAS. “Together with Airbus we will enable autonomous flight to support future combat,” he noted. “Complexity of systems is still increasing, so software is a big part of this programme.”

The Goal is to Perfectly Simulate the Real World

Paolo Colombo informed that the industry partners are working on a fully digital system. This new- generation aircraft will have more software components than previous fighters. He suggested to MT: “We need aircraft that will be different from previous systems. The next generation is far from old-style aircraft. The cockpit will be completely different, pilots’ workload will be very much different than on semi-digital systems. Thanks to the automatisation of flight, the aircraft is more autonomous in terms of basic flying functions and the pilot can focus on taking better decisions, analysing the environment and control and realisation of the mission while collecting data from sensors and screens.”

Further clarity has emerged for the Franco-German FCAS programme and ANSYS’ participation somewhat earlier during the Paris Air Show in June. In a press release, ANSYS informed that it has established a new strategic partnership with Airbus Defence and Space to develop a new ANSYS solution for safety-critical flight controls with sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI). The collaborative effort aims for autonomous flight by 2030. ANSYS has revealed that both partners want to develop an advanced ANSYS SCADE® tool that links traditional model-based software development with a new flow for embedded AI based controls software. Paolo Colombo explained that the new ANSYS SCADE tool will play a critical role in the development, certification and application of the drone flight control software. Leveraging the ANSYS solution will help reduce the cost of development, as well as speed time to market by potentially cutting development time by half. He prompted to argue that ANSYS is the world’s leading provider of technical simulation solutions. “We expect to leverage revolutionary technology to support our customers’ pursuit of autonomous flight.”

By offering the best and widest portfolio of technical simulation software, ANSYS helps customers solve the most complex design challenges and design products that go to the limits of human imagination.

Huge Opportunities

“The comprehensive autonomous vehicle simulation solution being innovated by ANSYS represents a huge opportunity,” to reduce costs and improve reliability of flight testing of these systems with unprecedented levels of complexity. Paolo Colombo acknowledged that autonomous vehicle technology development is evolving constantly, and the supporting simulation tools must advance as well. As an example, ANSYS acquired Optis in 2018 in part to ensure that a complete solution for the primary autonomous vehicle sensor suite – radar, lidar and camera – could be made available to its customers, uniquely from a single provider. More recently, ANSYS announced a partnership with AGI to provide an integrated system across key engineering and mission analyses to eliminate problematic engineering ‘bottlenecks’. Specifically, in the area of embedded software for critical safety systems, ANSYS’ 20-year relationship with Airbus has enabled ANSYS to gain knowledge about aerospace industry requirements and merge them with industry leading simulation technology including participating in the creation of software safety standards for the entire industry.

The aerospace and defence industry is at a pivotal crossroads with rising operating costs, an exponential number of new technologies that must be introduced in a short time, and a growing complexity of products. In an increasingly competitive and growing threat environment, the industry must digitally transform to deliver the unprecedented level of innovation needed. ANSYS ultimately forms part of this scheme.

“As the example of autonomous systems and our partnerships with Airbus and others demonstrate, we are helping the industry stay at the cutting edge,” Paolo Colombo summed up.

Stefan Nitschke

Detailing collaborative projects in August, Paolo Colombo, Aerospace & Defense Global Industry Director at ANSYS, joined the company in 2010. (Photo: ANSYS)

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