The 2011 Shortlist - Aerospace
BAE Systems, Cranfield University, Imperial College, Manchester University, Swansea University, Southampton University, Leicester University, Liverpool University, Nottingham University, Warwick University, York University
Joint-funded by BAE Systems and the EPSRC, the £6.2m FLAVIIR project has helped build on the UK’s strengths in unmanned air vehicle (UAV) technology. The 5.5-year project brought together BAE and no less than 10 UK universities in an ambitious effort to develop and evaluate a range of technologies for the next generation of UAVs.
The project’s most visible sign of success was the DEMON demonstrator UAV, which last September performed the world’s first flight demonstration of a fluidic flight-control technology that eliminates the need for moving flight control, such as flaps, ailerons and so on. The DEMON platform was developed at Cranfield University, the flight control system at Manchester and the control algorithms by Imperial College and Leicester University.
Other technologies developed through the project include novel software tools for predicting the failure of complex composite structures and for accurately predicting the electromagnetic behaviour of complex aircraft systems.
The team also developed manufacturing techniques to reduce the cost of making high-strength airframe composite structures and a ’parameter identification’ system that allows real-time evaluation of an aircraft’s performance and could reduce the duration and cost of trials.
BAE claims a number of technologies developed within FLAVIIR are now at the heart of a number of future project plans.
(Consolidated Off Planet Manufacturing and Assembly System for Large Space Structures)
Magna Parva, Excel Composites The concept of factories orbiting the Earth may sound far-fetched but, with the cost of launching payloads into space spiralling, a team of UK engineers believes that offplanet manufacturing could represent a sensible and economical alternative for the planet’s rapidly growing space industry.
With this in mind, engineers from Magna Parva and Excel Composites have developed a prototype of a manufacturing system based on pultrusion, which is a continuous process of manufacturing composite materials with constant crosssection. It can be used to make highstrength materials of consistent quality automatically and also to embed sensors directly into structures during manufacture.
Magna Parva’s engineers developed a breadboard model of the deployment system that allows large lengths of composite material to be manufactured in space, such that a large-aperture device (up to 200m) may be deployed without the use of traditional hinges and actuators. As well as being useful in the production of antennas or solar sails, there are various schemes for the generation of electrical power by means of
space-based solar arrays that collect solar energy and transmit it to Earth.
Typically, such schemes propose large reflectors that concentrate solar radiation onto solar cells. Such reflectors would require maximum surface area and so require a solution such as COPMA to enable them to be manufactured in situ. Structures made in space could be made thinner and use less material as they do not have to withstand the stresses of launch or force of gravity.
SENSOR COATING SYSTEM – SeCSy
Southside Thermal Sciences, Cranfield University, RWE npower, Land Instruments
The efficiency of gas turbines for both jet aircraft and power generation is inextricably linked to the maximum gas temperatures that occur in the hot gas section. However, according to engine diagnostic company STS, uncertainties in current temperature measurement systems don’t allow operators to run their engines at maximum efficiencies without compromising on reduced material life and safety.
Safety margins in engines are estimated to be as high as 150o, because overheating could reduce the life of hot components by a factor of two to three – a massive reduction in operational capability, having huge cost implications through unexpected outages or frequent refurbishment of
The basic concept of the SeCSy system is to take phosphorescent materials, as used in TV screens and energy-efficient light bulbs, and embed them into existing functional ceramics, creating a ’smart’ material. When illuminated with (UV) light, this class of material starts to phosphoresce (’glow’) and the observation of this light with specifically tailored instrumentation gives the engineer information on temperature,
erosion, corrosion and ageing effects as the phosphor particles act as embedded atomic sensors inside the ceramic.
While previous programmes have established the technical feasibility of spraying sensor coatings in laboratory conditions with industrial equipment on flat substrates, the SeCSy programme went further and established the coating process for robust sensor coatings on complex
shapes such as blades and vanes under ’shop floor’ conditions.
The group applied the smart coating to an operating Rolls-Royce Viper 201 turbine and demonstrated that the data it provides can be used to realise significant fuel savings, reductions in maintenance costs and faster development times.