Innovations in Aerospace 2016

A summary of the JCATI Conference, 2016 – held in Spokane, WA 

By Jennifer Ferrero

Innovation is synonymous with aerospace. New ideas are percolating at a rapid pace due to the digital age of technology, according to the Spokane-based conference for the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation (JCATI). From applications in developing newer, more efficient jet fuels to new material in composites, the aerospace landscape is very dynamic.

Our state universities were in attendance to present the best in industry research from their programs, with industry partners. Last year, the JCATI organization funded 1.25 million to schools like University of Washington, Washington State and Western Washington University to work on the biggest problems in aerospace. Funding comes from Washington State and from private donors. During the conference, they held 1 minute presentations from engineering programs at each college to give their elevator speech for highly complex problem solving that they are doing at the colleges.


Mary Kaye Bredeson, executive director, with Professor Amit Bandyopadhyay, WSU and master’s student Thomas Gualtieri showing off a recent research project funded by JCATI with industry partner, Aerojet Rocketdyne

The JCATI mission is “Supporting the Washington State aerospace community by enriching research, business and educational collaborations.” Those that were in attendance at the conference were largely students, professors and high level industry leaders who came to discuss current trends and activities.

Current trends in technology of aerospace/aviation

Triumph Composites shared a presentation about the use of robots in their manufacturing process. They noted that automation is required to reduce waste, deal with backlogs in orders, and to keep people out of hazardous chemicals. Their automation extends to inspection and quality control, which is done by a robot that scans and takes pictures of a product with an output of a quality report that can be read by human inspectors.

Lockheed Martin was on hand to describe the project and operations management that goes into launching rockets into space to deploy gold mesh satellites that control our cell phone communications systems.


Iris Bombelyn from Lockheed Martin was the keynote. She shared about several key projects involving setting up satellites in space to manage cell phone communications. 

AUVSI reported on the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the marketplace and trends regarding commercial usage. They noted that drones/UAS can be involved with so many facets of our working lives:

  • Agricultural
  • Inspection on wind turbines, oil rigs, buildings and bridges
  • Criminal investigations
  • Architecture of new buildings, maintenance of old

It’s clear that the ability to manage so many systems via UAS can be an asset to people. There will be many new businesses created within the UAS industry in the near future including fee-for-service work like wedding photographer, real estate and agriculture; as well as new jobs in insurance and law to support the industry.

Sandel Avionics was available to share new information about how a group of people are working with “highways in the sky” and flight path patterns to create more efficient flight times and landings to ultimately be more conservatively minded in commercial flights. A human variant in pilot personality and style of flying affects the level of efficiency in flights.

The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), an organization with 7,000 employees statewide, shared about innovations in aviation fuel; the privatization of air traffic control services (a bill currently in the state legislator); NextGen and the air navigation system transitioning from analog to digital navigation; and workforce development and partnerships.


Rob Hodgman from WSDOT Aviation and the Washington State Unmanned Aircraft Technology Coalition (Washington UAS) shared about the amount of involvement the Department of Transportation has in aircraft concerns. 

For more information about the organizations profiled in this article:


About COEAerospace

The Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing of Washington state is a conduit for collaboration and engagement between industry and K-12 and post secondary higher education. We work to develop the talent pipeline and economic infrastructure to facilitate continuous innovation and growth for aerospace and manufacturing in our state and beyond.
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