Supernal, the advanced air mobility (AAM) unit of South Korean automotive giant Hyundai, has struck a partnership Microsoft to create cloud-based tools for use in craft design and flight simulation, and eventually in the manufacturing and maintenance of planes.
The companies said their agreement will permit Supernal to continue developing its AAM aircraft by using Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform for simulations that will not only increase efficiency of design and testing, but also save time involved and keep the company on track to meet its certification and commercialization targets.
Their work will involve Microsoft drawing on Supernal’s insights and experiences in AAM development to produce customer-driven aircraft that have been tested through simulation by cloud-based, artificial intelligence-enhanced computing systems.
Simulation tools will also be used for eventual flight training of pilots, as well in mixed-reality applications that will assist and speed the work of people building craft and performing maintenance on them.
Microsoft will initially provide Supernal early access to Project AirSim, its artificial intelligence-first simulation product designed to allow virtual testing of and training on AAM aircraft. The platform uses Azure to generate significant amounts of environmental and sensory data to train machine learning models that simulate all phases of flight and variable weather patterns. It also contains libraries of pretrained scenarios and planet-scale 3D situations in both urban and rural landscapes, as well as tools that can help accelerate aerial autonomy.
Over time, Supernal plans to use Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 mixed-reality headset to create augmented reality applications for future AAM vehicle and manufacturing operations by providing technicians with visual feedback during routine operations, and bringing engineering support on-site virtually.
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Jaiwon Shin, president of Hyundai Motor Group and CEO of Supernal, said the incorporation of Microsoft computing systems into Supernal’s AAM research, development, and production activities promised to introduce ground-breaking practices and methods to the aviation sector, along with next generation aircraft.
“In ushering in a new frontier of transportation with advanced air mobility, Supernal has an obligation to ensure safe and secure deployment of eVTOL vehicles,” said Shin. “We are pleased to collaborate with Microsoft, a software leader, in responsibly advancing AAM autonomous systems and information-sharing.”
Supernal was initially created as an internal unit of Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility Division, and assigned to come up with a conceptual AAM air taxi it’s now working to prototype. In 2021 it was spun-off as a US-based affiliate to spearhead the automotive conglomerate’s stated ambition to manufacture and market AAM vehicles within the next decade. Hyundai is also a major backer of Urban-Air Ports, a UK developer of drone and vertiports.