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Air Force Awards Istari Digital $19M contract to develop the world’s first digitally certified airplane

Signaling a major leap forward for aviation in the digital age, the United States Air Force Research Laboratory awarded Istari Digital, Inc., a $19.1 million contract today to secure the world’s first airworthiness certification, through Military Flight Release, of a digital aircraft using state of the art digital engineering processes.

The program, dubbed Flyer Øne in homage to the Wright Brothers, will develop a digital-first, fixed-wing drone to demonstrate and de-risk a new, digital-first engineering process from design through certification. To date, no airplane has ever been digitally certified for real-world flight; Flyer Øne will change that.

“The United States Air Force is leading the charge on digital transformation in defense,” said Dr. Will Roper, Istari Digital’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “Certification is the next step to increase digital engineering rigor and transform the industry: Flyer Øne is the needed mechanism – the Kitty Hawk moment.”

Flyer Øne will pair an aerospace company and its aircraft design expertise with Istari Digital’s novel digital engineering platform and processes. The manufacturer will adapt existing aircraft models to Istari Digital’s all-digital engineering workflow, demonstrating a faster, more cost-effective paradigm that may be applied across the aerospace industry.

Physical aircraft prototyping is far too slow and expensive, resulting in stymied hardware innovation and stunted engineering creativity. Istari Digital will introduce Industry 4.0 practices to the world of aviation that have already revolutionized other industries like Formula 1 racing.

Using Istari Digital’s new, plug-n-play digital thread technology, Istari Digital will demonstrate via authoritative digital modeling and simulation that a digital aircraft can prove real-world performance and safety to the point of certification. In doing so, it will automatically integrate all of the models, simulations, requirements and certifications across the aircraft’s lifecycle into a true digital thread.

Istari Digital will construct digital versions of the required lifecycle models for development, testing, design reviews and finally airworthiness certification. Multiple Department of Defense processes will be digitized for the first time which will increase rigor and efficiency throughout the Military Flight Release process.

Flyer Øne will set the precedent for Formula 1-like digitization in aviation, opening the door to more digital possibilities. Formula 1 is a remarkable example of digital agility. Using authoritative modeling and simulation, race teams design over 30,000 digital cars per season. Most never physically exist, yet teams still confidently certify their real-world performance and safety. On average, parts are digitally redesigned, tested, and certified every 15 minutes, with the cars changing by as much as 85 percent over the course of a single season. Such software-like agility is only possible because racing hardware primarily evolves in digital threads.

“Digital engineering will not revolutionize aerospace overnight, nor make mistakes magically disappear. But industries, from Formula 1 racing to medical devices, keep demonstrating amazing digital transformations,” said Roper. “It’s time for aerospace to push the boundaries of its digital possibilities.”

Founded by Will Roper, and backed by former Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt, Istari Digital, Inc. aims to make the vision of digital engineering ecosystems a reality, where all technologies are created digitally. The company is building the world’s best digital engineering collaboration platform, making digital threads easy and impactful, and laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s engineering metaverse. Learn more here.

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