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Aerospace Engineering job roles?

  1. Sep 3, 2017 #1
    Hi guys, I'm looking to study aerospace engineering at university but I'm concerned with how defence orientated the industry is - so I've heard. I read that even if I work in the civil sector, the tech I design for that can be used in defence tech, which I REALLY don't want. I know companies like Pratt and Whitney design components that companies like Boeing buy for both civil and defence purposes. But can anyone list any aerospace engineering job roles that cannot involve defence in any way? I'm conducting my own research on this but I thought i'd also ask people in the field.
     
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  3. Sep 3, 2017 #2

    Choppy

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    I'm not in the aerospace industry, but if you really think about it, just about anything that is engineered for a civilian purpose can be used in the defence industry eventually. Once you develop something and make it available to the general population, it's out there for the general population to do with as general populations will do. For better or for worse. (One could argue that the defence industry itself perhaps has the tightest control over what technology developed within the field gets used for, but even in the long term, eventually even that technology can leak out into the rest of the world.)

    What you can do though, is to make sure that you thoroughly research any potential employers and make sure that they have (and abide by) policies that you agree with. It's one thing to develop a more efficient missile. It's another to develop a more efficient water bomber for fighting forest fires.
     
  4. Sep 3, 2017 #3
    Thanks so much for your reply. You're completely right. the military find use for tech a lot of the times which is frustrating. The thing is, if I pursue aerospace eng as a career, I'd want to eventually work for the big aerospace companies like Boeing, Rolls Royce, NASA etc, but almost all of these companies have a defence sector, meaning any tech I design for civil purposes can be used in defence regardless of whether I'm okay with that or not. So I thought I'd try and see if there are any aerospace design engineering jobs that cannot require defence input in the first place.
     
  5. Sep 4, 2017 #4

    FactChecker

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    As @Choppy suggested, the military work will certainly consider making use of technologies developed for non-military applications. But there is almost always a lot of modification and new technology added. There can also be a lot of delay because of design and testing in the harsh environment of the military application. For instance, there are many computer processors and operating systems that can not be used in the flight control of a military plane. The requirements are so different. Military engines, airframe designs, computers, avionics, software, stealth requirements, hardening, etc. are not the same as non-military.
     
  6. Sep 4, 2017 #5
    There is a whole book written on the topic of Civil technologies being turned 'milspec' and they come from the most bizarre things.

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YWoyBwAAQBAJ&pg=PA2&lpg=PA2&dq=civil+technology+in+defence&source=bl&ots=cbaNrE9Msy&sig=ucCermp8_K1Qg6gFvtdW62EELxo&hl=pl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjqzfTH3YvWAhWPKFAKHR9lARgQ6AEITTAJ#v=onepage&q=civil technology in defence&f=false

    Its hard to not design something that can be slapped on a tank or a submarine. There were scientists studying the glide angle of birds and their wings curvature. Next thing you know, they made a B2 stealth bomber from those studies and 'few' other things. Do you want to design a new high capacity plane for long economic flights?
    No problem, lets design the 747 they said, next thing you know. The army slapped a huge laser beam on the front, I bet you can dish out some great 1 way tickets from that thing :wink: What about launching satellites into a high orbit. Sounds innocent? Well lets put some warheads instead and make it into an ICBM.
    Do you see what I'm getting at? Its just more economically viable and quicker to retrofit and tweak an existing design rather than make something from scratch.
     
  7. Sep 4, 2017 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Air Force One is a 747. And it's part of the Air Force. No laser beams required. And it's also used to transport soldiers overseas.

    I think the OP wants something that simply does not exist.
     
  8. Sep 4, 2017 #7
    The only thing I can think of at the moment is working on the aerodynamics of F1 cars because I don't think we will see Lewis Hamilton driving around with a rotary auto cannon any time soon :biggrin: Im sorry but there honestly is too much money in this industry. Why design something for commercial airlines which they will take care of it for 20+ years when you can make a military version and hope it gets shot down so you can sell more.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
  9. Sep 4, 2017 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    Civilian aircraft get shot down too. Korean Air 007 is an example.
     
  10. Sep 4, 2017 #9

    FactChecker

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    I think that people are underestimating the differences between military and non-military airplanes. Requirements for stealth, speed, weapons, weapon delivery, attack sensors, air refueling, carrier landings, etc. It's a whole different ballgame. Almost all military planes are new design efforts. The only ones that I know that are taken nearly directly from commercial airplanes are ones that are used in essentially routine peacetime situations.
     
  11. Sep 4, 2017 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    I dunno. The P8 Poseidon looks a lot like a 737-800 crammed full of avionics.

    But I think you're answering the opposite question - sure there are military applications without a dual-use civilian counterpart. But is there the reverse?
     
  12. Sep 4, 2017 #11
    Ok I might have over exaggerated but over the years Boeing for example has produced a substantial amount of commercial planes that had been military spec'd:

    Boeing C-97 Stratotfreighter (Approx. 1000 milspec)
    Boeing 747
    Boeing KC10/MD11
    Boeing 737

    Thats only of top of my head. @FactChecker Yes I can agree that most planes including fighters will be built from ground up for the military but we still slap torpedoes and bombs on things like the 737 and more.

    Edit: Iraqi forces got themselves a Cessna Caravan that fires Hellfire missiles :DD
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
  13. Sep 4, 2017 #12

    FactChecker

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    Well, you are right. The 737-800 was the basis for the P8. And any commercial design or technology is unclassified and so available for use in military aircraft if it meets the requirements.
    Sure. There are many non-military planes that will never be used in any major military program. Virtually all major fighter, bomber, reconnaissance programs were new designs.
     
  14. Sep 4, 2017 #13

    FactChecker

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    Ok, @Tracey3 and @Vanadium 50 , I'll concede your point that a lot of commercial aircraft are used, as-is or modified, by the military. But as @Choppy said, it's hard to avoid. It would be like avoiding work on the telephone because the military might use it. And the large military programs are probably going to end up with an airplane that is very different from any commercial plane.
     
  15. Sep 4, 2017 #14
    Hi guys, thank-you all so much for your replies, they were very helpful. I'm asking because I want to do an aerospace engineering degree, as opposed to a mech eng degree cause I find it more interesting (even though they're very similar to each other). But if the aerospace industry is that defence oriented then I don't think I should do the degree. The only way i'd consider doing it is if there's a lot of job roles available which can't possibly have any defence application. Has anyone here studied aerospace engineering? It's just so niched that i'm thinking non-aerospace companies might be reluctant to hire me.
     
  16. Sep 4, 2017 #15
    Do what excites you rather than something that gets you a job. If you really pursue something and apply yourself to that area, employers will bang on doors and windows for you. You would be surprised how many job postings will accept any of CS,EE,ME for the same job because it involves all 3 fields. BUT, if you really want to be a good asset, there is a rise in Mechatronic Engineers which are essentially jack of all trades (CS,ME,EE).
    Link to a video to find out more about Mechatronics Engineering:


    I for example I love Aerospace and even though Im currently studying very basic level of engineering EE/ME at a college, I already am working on laser guided missiles and I have interest from few companies like Thales and I will try to scrounge from them a paid Masters at Cambridge :wink:

    If you really want to be as far away from Defence industry but still work in Aerospace, consider: ESA,NASA,RosCosmos. For them military application is the last thing on their agenda. Regardless of were you honestly will work, it will probably find a military application (Wheel is an important invention yet its found also on tanks). You will have to outweigh the ratio of 'How much good will an invention do for the world vs how much pain it will cause'. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, we have missiles and we have Iron domes, we have viruses and antivirus, you can't expect a dog not to bark.
     
  17. Sep 4, 2017 #16
    I suspect the OP is not likely to find a aerospace manufacturer that meets his requirements. I worked for an aerospace components company some years ago (not complete aircraft, just subsystems), and they served both commercial and military markets, as well as space oriented projects. Companies are in business to make money, and a company with a certain capability is unlikely to leave money lying on the table simply on principle.
     
  18. Sep 4, 2017 #17

    FactChecker

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    With your expressed feelings, I think you should look into biomedical engineering. You might find many satisfying possibilities there. I looked hard at it once and was impressed. Where aero engineering had aerodynamics, biomedical engineering had flow of fluids that included lumpy, squishy, sticky, gooey things. So the theory can get very complicated. I believe that it will have a lot of growth and major breakthroughs in your lifetime that will make it exciting. And there won't be the same level of concerns about military applications.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
  19. Sep 4, 2017 #18
    Mechatronics sounds good but I'm not thatttt into electrical engineering; I like the amount of EE that they teach in ME or AE (which is not a lot). Its classical mechanics that I'm interested in most and it seems ME and AE are the degrees which are comprised of a huge majority of that. & that sounds amazing! Cambridge is a great university :). Are there any more companies other than NASA, ESA and RosCosmos that are also far away from the defence industry? & yeah I agree, but I feel like the aerospace industry is where it happens most. That's life though ay
     
  20. Sep 4, 2017 #19
    Agreed. I think I should just stick to ME or something. But I don't know which area of it i'd like to go into, its so frustrating lol
     
  21. Sep 4, 2017 #20
    Haha I actually agree! but I really don't like biology though
     
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