BAE Systems/Cranfield University/Imperial College/Universities of Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Warwick, Southampton, Swansea, York

THE FLAVIIR (Flapless Air Vehicle Integrated Industry Research) programme is a major university/industry collaboration to research technologies for the next generation of UAVs operating in the 2015 to 2020 timescale. BAE Systems recognises that investment in relevant long-term research is essential to maintain its leading position in the global aerospace industry. And given the pace of change of technology and the need to accelerate product introduction, it is important for the capabilities of key universities to be directly relevant and applied to industry’s needs.

The collaborative programme encompasses a broad range technologies and approaches across leading university groups in the field. The teams work together in a close, flexible and integrated fashion that is different to the normal type of academic relationship. This creates a ‘grand challenge’ effect that drives the programme and takes the research closer to industrial readiness than is typically the case. The universities also collaborate closely with industry to ensure that the research is focused on practical implementation opportunities, creating an academic capability that supports rapid industrial exploitation of the results.

The programme has already achieved significant technological advances. For example, the aerodynamics research focus is on novel means of flow control for improved manoeuvrability, robustness and reliability with reduced complexity and overall cost of ownership. Circulation control using a jet of air from a slot on the wing trailing edge is being investigated by Manchester and Cranfield. The five-year, £6.5m programme began in 2004 and has just passed the planned three-year major review by BAE Systems and the EPSRC. The review praised FLAVIIR team members for the quality of the research to date, and the close collaboration between the universities.

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