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Aerospace Integration Research Centre officially opened at Cranfield

The £35m Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC) has been officially opened at Cranfield University.

Cranfield AIRC centre

The new facility has been co-funded by Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Cranfield University, plus the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

According to Cranfield, the Centre will conduct research into ways of integrating advanced technologies to reduce the time from academic innovation to industrial application.

To enable this, the AIRC has been equipped with aerospace research technology including air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) laboratories; flight simulators; a virtual wind tunnel; a FANUC robot in the intelligent automation centre; and a 1500 sq m open space work area, currently housing a full-size wing from an Airbus plane.

Trevor Higgs, head of landing gear and UK senior site representative, Airbus, said: “We at Airbus see the AIRC as a key part of the growing research ecosystem the aerospace industry has in the UK, and will help us foster closer relationships with research partners and to accelerate and deliver on our research strategy for the Wing of Tomorrow, to make sure our products remain the best in world.”

Henner Wapenhans, director of technology strategy, Rolls-Royce, added: “This new Centre will help develop the next generation of highly skilled engineers and will play an important role in developing the innovative technologies needed to enhance performance, improve efficiency and reduce emissions of future aircraft.”

Features of the new AIRC centre include:

A visualisation area, air-traffic management simulation and large aircraft flight simulator used to test new ideas and impact on aircraft. Feedback screens are linked to the visualisation lab and the pod meeting area

1500m² open lab – to be used for testing intelligent robots in the structural assembly of aircraft parts, including 18m x 6m sliding doors to allow a demonstrator aircraft, such as the University’s 19-seater Jetstream 31, to enter the facility

A full-size aircraft wing

A FANUC CR-35iA robot – which can operate in an uncaged, open space, and determine the proximity of a person or object so it will stop if touched

Closed labs for research requiring a controlled environment such as testing UAVs, structures, assembly and intelligent automation