Why Boeing is investing $200m in India R&D center

Todd Citron, chief technology officer and VP & GM of Boeing Research & Technology (BR&T), says the aircraft maker’s India R&D team has been central to a number of the company’s products.

It’s now strengthening these capabilities with a $200-million, 43-acre wholly-owned engineering and technology campus in Bengaluru.

This will be Boeing’s largest facility of its kind outside the US. “The tremendous talent here is contributing to both our defense and commercial sides, not in just support roles, but also in design and development of products,” Citron told Times Techies from the US.

The Boeing India Engineering & Technology Centre (BIETC) currently has some 4,000 employees, of which over 3,000 are engineers. The company plans to increase its strength by 25%.

Through a joint venture in the US called Wisk, Boeing is currently working on an autonomous four-seater electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi designed for passenger transport.

Citron said over time, the company will leverage the India capability to support Wisk. The India center is currently playing a significant role in Boeing’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions.

The aviation industry has to get there by 2050. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), Citron said, will contribute to 70% of the reduction required to get to net zero. “Our aircraft are compatible with 50% SAF blending.

By 2030, we expect aircraft to be compatible with 100% SAF. The key thing to focus on,  however, is the availability of SAF.

We are working on hydrogen (as a fuel) also,” he said, adding, “One of the advanced tech we are pursuing is truss-braced wings that are very thin wings for significantly higher aerodynamic efficiency.”

The India team, he said, is extremely good in the use of cutting-edge technologies, including Al and ML, to address such issues and create new opportunities.

“They are developing the technologies for the future, whether it’s with software or electrical/structural design,” he said.

For instance, BIETC has been working on improving the efficiency of aircraft maintenance through AI/ ML. Thousands of wires are tucked inside aircraft walls that require regular checks.

While each wire has a specific purpose, reducing their numbers makes maintenance easier, and reduces the chances of human error.

But doing that requires transitioning from legacy formats to digital enterprise data standards. Manual data formatting is painful and long.

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