Two Desert View High School students look at 3-D presentations used by marketers at the Ideas Collide booth.
Caterpillar let some of the 400 Expo attendees remotely pilot a D11GT bulldozer located at the company’s Green Valley demonstration facility.
New technologies including artificial intelligence and 3-D printing are transforming the aerospace industry — and those flying cars may not be too far off in the future, aviation experts said Wednesday at the 2018 Southern Arizona Tech + Business Expo.
The sixth annual expo held by the Arizona Technology Council attracted more than 400 attendees and more than 60 exhibitors to the Tucson Convention Center.
Exhibits by local tech companies included a Stratocraft stratospheric balloon vehicle made by World View Enterprises, an autonomous Peterbilt truck from TuSimple, and a large drone built by AUV Flight Services.
The technology, which involves building up layers of metal rather than casting or machining parts, can drastically cut the number of parts and manufacturing steps and produce lighter parts, said Peter Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
“These are big companies investing heavily in additive manufacturing,” said Bunce, whose group represents major makers of non-military and non-commercial aircraft.
Other cutting-edge technologies are being combined to improve navigation, he said.
For example, Bunce said, Tucson-based Universal Avionics, which was acquired earlier this year by Israeli tech giant Elbit Systems Ltd., is working on a visor-like transparent display that combines terrain data, infrared imaging and LED lighting to create a civilian version of the heads-up displays now used on some military aircraft.
Meanwhile, advances in hybrid electric propulsion systems and artificial intelligence is helping drive the development of “air mobility vehicles” — flying cars, Bunce said.
Companies including helicopter giant Bell are investing heavily as engineers work to make lighter, more powerful electric and hybrid engines, as well as develop simplified control systems, to foster the future of personal flying vehicles, he said.
“I think the elements are all here,” said Laikind. “It really comes down to people.”