Light for the Chancellor and the Sun for BremenAerospace
AES Aircraft Elektro/Elektronik System GmbH supplies the aviation industry worldwide
Whether it’s electronic systems for light, power and communication in the aviation industry or high-tech products for shipping or space – Bremen-based AES Elektro/Elektronik System GmbH is in demand all around the world. As well as airlines, exclusive customers such as the Flugbereitschaft (Executive Transport Wing) of the German government rely on products created by the Bremen-based company, which has recently been breaking new ground.
Walls covered with luminous strips, round LED spotlights, vanity mirrors with an integrated light, flexible rope lights – the permanent testing space of Bremen-based AES is somewhat reminiscent of a lighting shop. It is still lit up bright white here even when night has long since fallen everywhere else. For test purposes, some of the bulbs have been lit up continuously since the year 2000, as this is the only way they can be tested. “This amounts to far above 140,000 operating hours – two to three times as many hours as are required for aviation certification,” explains Jörn Burkert proudly. The CEO leads the company together with Vahit Ezer-Hagemann and light is his personal pet project.
Travel by Airbus, fly with AES
Since its foundation in 1997, AES has grown to be a key supplier in the aviation industry. You can find products that were developed in the offices of Bremen’s Airport City and manufactured in the associated production facility in two thirds of Airbus aeroplanes. The past 25 years have spawned a great number of innovations. For example, the first pure-white LED light approved for use in an Airbus was produced in Bremen in 2000.
AES products are niche products in the truest sense of the word and are used in the field of galley kitchen lighting or in aeroplane toilets. AES manufactures illuminated flush switches with touch and touchless functions for this area. “We focus on special applications and customised special requests, but are also able to fit out entire aeroplanes,” continues Dr Burkert.
When a light goes on the Chancellor’s plane
In the case of private jets or special orders, Bremen-based employees completely equip the aircraft with lighting systems. One example is the fleet of the Flugbereitschaft (Executive Transport Wing) of the German government – Olaf Scholz enjoys light from Bremen when on many foreign state visits. The latest government plane also relies on technology from Bremen: an A350-900 that first went into service at the end of 2022.
Customers’ requests are as varied as the colours produced by the LEDs made in Bremen. “A lot of our production is carried out in small series with batch sizes of between 1 and 50, as every airline wants a different design and different products. As a medium-sized company, this suits us well, as we can make the most of our speed and reliability,” states Vahit Ezer-Hagemann during a tour of the production areas.
These areas are reminiscent of a specialised workshop and many products are created manually or using semi-automated production. Around 20 out of the 130 employees work in final assembly of the electronic components. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, up to 40,000 devices were created annually, the majority of which were then further processed by aviation manufacturers. After years of crisis with employees put on short-time work, in 2023 the company aims to return to and exceed the success it had in 2019 when it achieved 19 million euros in sales.
Digitalisation and increasingly complex systems for the aeroplanes of tomorrow
This also includes exclusive requests from the often well-heeled customers. For example, a twinkling night sky with stars consisting of LED lights embedded in the ceiling of the plane, or lights with gold mounts. However, the requests are usually much more mundane, for example as in the case of three-dimensional and flexible rope lights: “Many people are familiar with similar-looking products from the DIY shop, but you can only get ones that are certified for use in aeroplanes from us,” states Ezer-Hagemann. Since the company's foundation, the systems have grown ever more complex – and the tasks for the employees in Bremen have too. The lighting systems now include products ranging from corresponding digital controls to in-flight entertainment systems. Additional electronic components also round off the range, and include network technology, communication equipment and power management systems. In addition to the aviation industry, the team has also ventured into the field of equipping satellites or ships. “We draw upon our core skills in electronics at all times and try to expand out into new industries,” states Ezer-Hagemann.
The company is currently working on contactless gesture control systems for light switches and on so-called LiFi data transmission. This little-used technology transfers data using imperceptible light pulses from lamps, rather than using radio waves (as is the case with WiFi). This provides many advantages in aeroplanes, as fewer cables are required, the aeroplane is lighter and interfering radio waves are also eliminated.
Supporting new talent to ensure future growth in the aviation industry
The company is focussed on boosting its in-house junior talent with up to ten trainees. After all, specialist employees are in demand in the Bremen aviation sector. This is another reason why the lighting professionals like to work together with the scientific community in Bremen in research projects – in order to be able to reach out to specialists at the universities directly. “What’s more, we are always delighted to receive any other applications – just go for it!” explains Dr Burkert. In the future, some of them will also join SOLARES Energy GmbH, a sister company that was founded in 2020. It is a service provider for photovoltaic systems, battery storage systems and e-mobility.
"It grew out of two considerations that we had,” explains Dr Burkert. “On the one hand, during the pandemic and the slump at that time, those of us in the aviation sector asked ourselves where we could still use our skills and make money. On the other hand, we wanted to install a solar power installation on our company’s roof, but could barely find any suppliers that had time for this, as their order books were all full. That’s what gave us the idea to do it ourselves!”
Around ten employees now work at the sister company which installs photovoltaic as well as battery systems in the commercial and private sector. They are also involved in funding projects such as “Café Sand goes Green” together with the Hochschule Bremen university. Supported by Bremeninvest, they examine opportunities to make commercial enterprises as energy self-sufficient as possible by using or temporarily storing energy from solar power installations. AES also has skin in the game, as it wants to test Li-Fi data transmission technology in practice. “We therefore leverage synergies between the two companies,” states Dr Burkert.
Bremen through and through
The solar power installation on the company’s own roof is now set up and sustainably produces energy for operations in the offices and production halls. They (as well as the large warehouse) were built in the last 20 years with the help of institutions such as Bremeninvest and BAB (the development bank for Bremen and Bremerhaven). The bank has supported the Bremen-based company from the Airport City as part of several funding projects, including with investment funds from the Landesinvestitionsförderprogramm (state investment support programme – LIP).
“We always enjoy working together with Bremeninvest and BAB. We have had good experiences and are delighted with the support that is provided to Bremen-based companies in this way. That’s why Bremen is the ideal location for us. We are very attached to the Hanseatic city,” states Dr Burkert. He also adds: “Bremen has a fantastic image as an aviation hub, but many people first think of aircraft construction and Airbus. We demonstrate that Bremen can also provide outstanding performance in the field of electrical systems and electronics!”
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