More Work Less Show

Farnborough International Airshow 2018

A FORCE Report

Farnborough: The irony of the 2018 edition of the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) was that while the skies were the perfect blue dazzling with periodically brilliant sunshine (no rain this time), fewer aircraft took advantage of the beautiful weather. Such was the pervasiveness of the morning peace that one might as well have been at a spa resort! The second irony was while the show dailies screamed enormous business being conducted during the Show, there was less buzz, smaller European chalets and fewer busy journalists zipping from briefing to briefing. Brexit effect?

Farnborough International Airshow 2018

By the end of day two, the official press release issued by the organisers claimed total business of USD98 billion in orders, options and agreements. According to them, this was USD23 billion higher than the business conducted on the first two days of the 2016 edition of FIA. All in all, orders for more than 530 aircraft were placed during the three business days. And yet, all small talk during the show started with how quiet it was. Perhaps, the quietness was the consequence of negligible fighter flying. With no major fighter procurement programmes going on, the companies had curtailed their demonstration budgets.

Clearly, the rekindling of the Indian fighter programme is yet to reach the international shows. Or maybe, having burnt their fingers once in the prolonged campaign, this time the competitors are more restraint. At least representatives of two potential competitors at the show told FORCE informally that their participation will be cautious this time and will depend upon how the programme progresses.

Could this then be the future of air shows? More business, less play? At FIA 2018, that seemed to be the message. The budget cuts have been so severe that even the famed hospitality of certain companies, which used to keep an open house for journalists and select visitors, was reduced to pre-packaged sandwiches and colas. Tough times indeed!

Coming to the actual business of the show, notwithstanding the news that big platforms made at the show, the focus was on future technologies, especially the big two which are likely to be the disruptors — cyber security and unmanned systems, including robotics. While the former was the highlight of several companies at the show, the latter spawned concerns about safety if indeed world was to be overrun by unmanned systems across domains, including civilian and entertainment.


Coping With UAS

A couple of years ago, Amazon had announced plans to launch Amazon Prime Air, a delivery service through drones. Apparently, flight tests have already been carried out and once a regulatory system is in place Amazon will start the service. This is not all. Small entertainment drones are now available off-the-shelf or online. People are using them for photography or simply fun. However, subversion of benign technology or system is not impossible.

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