Automated & Connected

(Image courtesy: Aerospace Industries Association)

AIA predicts flying air taxis, supersonic air travel, and space industry for 2050

Arlington, Virginia-based Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has collected input from leaders in the aerospace and defense industries and built a visionary landscape – or “skyscape” – for 2050 full of personal air mobility vehicles and flying air taxis, supersonic passenger aircraft, and bustling, space-based research and manufacturing companies.

In the “What’s Next for Aerospace and Defense: A Vision for 2050” study, AIA, New York City-based McKinsey & Company, and other industry partners reveal a comprehensive 30-year, Industry 4.0 forecast of air travel and spaceflight based on improvements in automation and digitization, next-generation materials, alternative energy sources and storage, and increased data throughput.

“For the last 100 years, the American aerospace and defense industry has shaped the world around us, and AIA has worked alongside our members to enable those remarkable achievements,” says AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning. “Developing ‘Vision 2050’ to mark our centennial is the next logical step in that progression. This report doesn’t just look at the next thirty years, it sets the stage for the next hundred years of American leadership.”



The projection includes extensive leveraging of artificial intelligence (AI) systems to enable unmanned traffic management – effectively reducing the need for humans to operate or navigate vehicles. This will likely have a dramatic impact on cyber security resources and workforce development, including cross-industry competition as various sectors converge towards an environment of algorithms, AI, autonomy, machine learning, and quantum computing.


Learn more about artificial intelligence


Regulatory issues, which often lag behind technological innovation, will likely complicate accelerating aerospace and defense industries further and non-traditional market players will likely adopt new business models and shift operating and investing paradigms.

The report does note that the “interplay between economic and societal changes will undoubtedly be influenced by unforeseeable events – such as inter-state migration and conflict – and climate change.” The aerospace and defense industries, which focus on transporting people and goods, securing national defense, and researching and exploring, will be equally impacted by these changes.

The new study was launched with an interactive experience at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas to mark AIA’s centennial year. AIA has also created an interactive augmented reality mural for the  2050 vision.


Audience listening to a panel discussing the future of aerospace at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

AIA hosted a panel, “Flying cars, Supersonic Jets, Space Tourism & Beyond: Aerospace in 2050,” at SXSW in Austin to discuss the new report. (Image courtesy: Aerospace Industries Association)


“American leadership in technology and innovation can’t be taken for granted,” says Fanning. “We must work together today to build a better tomorrow. Our industry is proud of what we’ve achieved so far, but that’s only the beginning. We hope this report will help inspire actions to strengthen American leadership in aerospace and ensure a better future for all.”

In order to make these advances, both industries will need to continually develop autonomous technology; materials, technologies, and designs; physical infrastructure capable of connecting with vehicles; advanced manufacturing processes; and agile mindsets and cultures.


Learn more


William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at