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Aviation startup goes ‘all-in’ on AWS to make its supersonic jet plans take flight

Boom Supersonic sets sights on making commercial supersonic air travel a reality for passengers again, and is leaning on Amazon Web Services to support its efforts

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is supporting a Denver-based aviation startup in its goal to cut flight times for air passengers by reintroducing commercial supersonic aircraft.

Boom Supersonic claims it is on a mission to “reinvent supersonic commercial travel” and declared that it is going “all-in” on the AWS public cloud platform in pursuit of its goal.

The company is already designing its first supersonic airliner, known as Overture, which is on course for completion in 2025 and will, the company claims, halve flight times for more than 500 transoceanic routes once it launches.

Boom has already leaned on the AWS portfolio of cloud services to hone the development of Overture’s prototype, XB-1, which it unveiled to the world on 7 October 2020.

According to Boom’s own data, the development of XB-1 saw the company consume more than 53 million AWS compute hours, and it expects to double that as it works towards completing the design and testing of the plane.  

“Supersonic aircraft require a precise combination of performance, structural stability and safety that makes designing them both resource- and time-intensive,” said Boom in a statement. “With an on-premise infrastructure, a design team would have to manage a large queue of design iterations, running one after the other, to find the right balance. 

“However, by tapping into the virtually unlimited scale of AWS HPC [high-performance computing] resources, Boom can run thousands of advanced computer simulations concurrently, far faster and more cost-effectively than ever before possible, resulting in an estimated 6x increase in productivity versus running these simulations in an on-premise environment.”

The company said it intends to use the full gamut of AWS services – compute, storage, security, managed databases, machine learning and data analytics – as it works towards readying Overture for take-off.

“In addition, Boom’s 525TB repository of XB-1 design and testing data will be stored in AWS, along with its core IT applications, which will streamline the company’s operations so it can focus on innovation,” the company statement added.

“It also plans to build a data lake for its manufacturing operations on Amazon Simple Storage Service [Amazon S3], and leveraging AWS analytics and machine learning services, Boom will gain deeper insights into its manufacturing processes to inform future decision-making, streamline workflows and improve quality control.”

Commercial supersonic air travel has been attempted before, with Concorde the most high-profile example. Concorde flights ended in 2003 because of the challenges of making it an economically viable method of travel for air passengers.

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Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic, said that as well as making supersonic air travel a “mainstream” travel option for air passengers, the company also plans to lean on Amazon’s technology to improve the customer experience for travellers.

“As we build the first supersonic airliner in a new age of travel, AWS, the world’s leading cloud provider, will help us continuously refine our designs without compromise so that we can deliver a superior flight experience to the flying public,” said Scholl.

“AWS’s proven infrastructure and unparalleled portfolio of services are helping us to deliver a revolution in air travel.”

Teresa Carlson, vice-president of the worldwide public sector and regulated industries sector at AWS, added: “By going all-in on AWS, Boom can innovate without bounds and more quickly than was previously possible, to make the world more accessible to everyone.”

News of the deal coincides with the start of the cloud giant’s three-week AWS Re:Invent end-user and partner conference, which – because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic – is being run as a virtual event this year.

The company has already used the show to give details of the multi-year preferred cloud partner deal it has struck with longstanding customer Zoom.

The show also typically sees AWS announce tens of product announcements, with the first this year being the launch of Apple Mac Instances for its cloud compute platform, Amazon EC2.

The Amazon EC2 Mac Instances are built on Mac mini computers and are specifically designed to enable Apple developers to natively run MacOS within the AWS cloud when creating apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch devices, as well as its Safari browser.

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