C2I 2022: Aerospace & Defence Shortlist

Runners up in the year's Aerospace & Defence category ranged from marine innovations through to cutting edge research centres driving the development of advanced aerospace technologies

Project: Subsea power harvesting Vortex Induced Vibration to provide power

WITT (Energy) Ltd with Solis Marine Architects, MCT ReMan, Aspire Engineering, Omicron electronics, Feritech   

Gloucestershire-based energy technology start-up WITT Energy has led the development, optimisation and testing of an innovative renewable energy system that could be used to provide power for a range of sensitive subsea applications.

The system is underpinned by the firm’s WITT technology (Whatever Input to Torsion Transfer), which uses pendulums connected to a flywheel to generate electricity. Unlike most other energy harvesting devices – which typically use up-and-down or side-to-side motion, the WITT device captures energy from all six degrees of chaotic motion.

Developed in collaboration with a range of organisations from the marine sector and beyond, the subsea variant of the technology works by harvesting the oscillating motion caused when a constant flow of water meets a rounded object: water flow vortex induced vibration. This action is used to turn a flywheel in one direction and generate electrical power for subsea sensors and other data gathering equipment.

WITT has already supplied a complete system to the US Dept of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is in talks regarding deploying and testing and testing the system in a wide range of locations. Together with its partners it’s now working toward large scale production of the device.  

Project: Queen Elizabeth Class Pressure Vessel NDE Revalidation

Babcock International Group with Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Ministry of Defence - Maritime Systems Support, Chesterfields Specialist Cylinders Ltd, BAE Systems Maritime, Amplitude Inspection Ltd

Led by Babcock International Group, this project established a collaborative team to develop and deploy a non-destructive examination process for revalidating pressure vessels on the new Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) Aircraft Carriers

Unable to remove the pressure vessels without cutting through a number of internal bulkheads and through the hull of the ship, and also unable to use pressure testing techniques (which could potentially be unsafe in a confined machinery space) the team turned to lessons learned in the submarine sector and developed a non-destructive examination NDE process based on a suite of techniques (including Phased Array Ultrasonic, Time of Flight Diffraction, and Magnetic Particle Testing) that could be reliably and repeatedly deployed on the QEC ships to assure the safety of the pressure vessels.

The project has already maintained the availability of aircraft carriers through avoiding a lengthy period in harbour in order to remove the pressure vessel receivers from the ship, and is now going further to reduce the time taken to perform the NDE inspections.  

Project: National Centre for Combustion and Aerothermal Technology (NCCAT)

Loughborough University with Rolls-Royce plc, Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Innovate UK, EPRSC Centre of Doctoral Training in Future Propulsion and Power.

Becoming fully operational in 2021 the National Centre for Combustion and Aerothermal Technology (NCCAT) was established to t as the UK's primary hub for the Research and Development of future low-emission aero gas turbine combustion technologies which utilise either conventional fuels or alternative sources of energy that are being considered for decarbonisation of the aviation industry.

The facilities and technical expertise enable low emission technology to be designed, numerically modelled, and experimentally validated with unprecedented agility crucial for complex technologies to be iterated in the compressed timescales and budgets required for future competitiveness.

Located at Loughborough University, on one of the UK's largest science parks, the £15.5m NCCAT development is funded through partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and Innovate UK, with support from Rolls-Royce plc.

Research undertaken has a direct impact on the products manufactured by Rolls-Royce. This includes work across the civil engine portfolio, military applications, along with various engine demonstrator programmes. For example, Rolls-Royce's latest engine, the Trent XWB - "the world's most efficient large aero-engine", has benefitted from several innovative technologies developed by Loughborough.

Project: Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC)

Cranfield University with Aveillant, Blue Bear Systems Research, Boeing, BOXARR, Connected Places Catapult, Etihad Airways, Heathrow, Inmarsat, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the IVHM Centre, Saab, Satellite Applications Catapult, Spirent Communications and Thales, with co-investment support from Research England.

The £67 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) was set up in 2021 to spearhead the UK's research into digital aviation technology.  

Based at Cranfield University – one of a handful of Universities around the world with its own airport - the centre is tackling challenges such as the integration of drones into civilian airspace; increasing the efficiency of airports through technological advances; creating safe, shared airspace through secure data communication infrastructures; and increasing the reliability and availability of aircraft through self-sensing, self-aware technologies.

Researchers at DARTeC work closely with industry partners to advance the application of digital technologies in the air transport sector.  Ongoing DARTeC research includes nine projects within Phase 2 of UK Research and Innovation's Future Flight Challenge, with a total award value of over £8.5 million, plus further successes recently announced in Phase 3.