RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • By 2026 there will be more than 15,000 satellites in orbit, with many more to come.
  • Advanced air mobility is arriving soon with the potential to be a one trillion (USD) market by 2040.
  • This is the New Sky Economy, and it fundamentally changes how we use the sky.
  • To unlock its promise, established and new entrants alike will need to reimagine their boundaries.


Charting the new sky economy

The New Sky Economy offers innovations for mobility, connectivity and experience in established markets such as commercial air travel. And it will shape entirely new markets, like advanced air mobility and commercial space. Any company — established or new — that wants to compete will need to reimagine their own boundaries and develop digitized, nimble approaches for both innovation and certifiable production.

As society changes the way it uses the sky, a whole New Sky Economy is opening up. It promises to offer an ever-wider range of new and improved experiences to everyone, everywhere. That could be meeting the needs of commercial passengers seeking more sustainable travel. It might be providing satellite-based internet access to remote communities, or countless other new experiences and services. But one thing is certain. The New Sky Economy is poised to completely transform what we do with the space above. But this radical future also presents different challenges to established incumbents and new entrants:

  • Incumbents need to see past their existing operating models, processes and products. They should take a new view on digital platforms, data and artificial intelligence to operate more like a born-digital business. And they need to implement new tools, methods and processes to accelerate innovation without major disruption to proven operations.
  • New entrants need to understand how to achieve and maintain certification so their products can get to market while maintaining their innovation edge. And they need to be able to maximize efficiency while creating, selling and supporting a physical product, often wrapped with a broader service.

Incumbents need to flex out of their comfort zone

The New Sky Economy will challenge incumbents’ existing systems, models and processes that are hard to flex and scale. To overcome this, they’ll need to build on lessons from Model-Based System Engineering and mobilize a model-based enterprise (MBE) approach. An MBE pushes digital models from engineering through to manufacturing, supply chain and support to deliver the speed and agility incumbents require.

Incumbents’ proven operations are often also siloed. MBE helps break them down. Sharing highly detailed information about components and products across business functions and with the supply base, service partners — and even customers– is vital. Beginning at initial concept — and updated every step of the way – this shared information ensures that a component is designed for effective production and long-term service.

"Enabling the digital twin, simulation and visualization tools help trial all steps in the manufacturing process, even the movements and actions of humans in the loop"

— Manufacturing Leader, Tier 1 supplier

MBE also increases adaptability and decreases rework. For example, before an OEM makes an order, MBE enables suppliers to “fit check” their components in real time. Using a model-based approach can, for example, enable new ways to think about component design. Suppliers can take parameters beyond form, fit and function, such as lead times for raw materials, into account. That ability can have a huge impact on the supply chain and delivering on schedule and budget.

New entrants certify while scaling up

New entrants are digital natives. And that offers them some distinct advantages in the New Sky Economy. They are nimble and can quickly adapt to future demands in aerospace. They can also collaborate across multiple industries to address novel and evolving needs. But they also need to become ready to manufacture a certificated product at scale. The challenge they face is that the infrastructure and supply chain required for production at scale are orders of magnitude more complex and capital-intensive than for building a one-off prototype.

New entrants need to start with a fully open, digital collaboration platform that unites all functions, processes and data structures in a “town square.” This single shared space will enable universal data standards, a seamless digital thread and interoperability between operational functions, right from the concept stage. And a town square will enable the right information to accelerate product development and continuous, responsive product improvement.

Through its universal data structure, the town square should also reduce the time and resources required during the intensive trial phase, where everything is typically done physically. And beyond the trial, the universal data structure that underpins the digital twin lays the groundwork for a model-based enterprise as the product matures and production-rate increases.

Talent to fly

Maintaining trust in products while striking the right balance between automation and people is challenging. Companies will increasingly rely on digital models and software-driven shop-floor operations. To support these, a different set of innovation and digital technology skills will need to come into play across traditional aerospace operations. Partnering with digital-native new entrants can help incumbents gain a ‘fast-pass’ to future competencies.

The best results will arise from blending talent from innovative new entrants with experts from the established aerospace industry. This mix will enable both a different perspective on processes and an understanding of how to put the power of the product model into use across operations.

"The challenges that people face in being innovative is probably 80% limited by their people, and 20% by new technologies that need to be developed."

— Engineering Executive, Commercial Aerospace OEM

But bringing in experienced aerospace hires to a newer business may also drag in structures and processes that will impede pace and innovation flexibility. The solution? Construct teams and hire for talent that can marry the speed of a start-up with the controls of an incumbent. To thrive in the New Sky Economy, optimal teams need both sides of the brain — innovation and industry controls — working in harmony.

Reach for the new sky economy

While they start from different places, both new entrants and incumbents share the New Sky Economy as a common destination. They both have much to learn from each other as they assemble the talent and harness the data to develop and launch the new products and services that will soon fill the sky.

About the Authors

John Schmidt

Senior Managing Director – Aerospace & Defense, Global


Russell Bertwell

Principal Director – Aerospace and Defense


Tobias Geißinger

Managing Director – umlaut, part of Accenture


Benjamin Schuricht

Manager – umlaut, part of Accenture


Rushda Afzal

Manager – Digital Transformation Research and Detroit Innovation Center Research Lead, Industry X


Jeff Wheless

Principal Director – Aerospace and Defense, Accenture Research

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