Safer aero systems

Researchers at York University have won a €1m (£1m) European grant to help aerospace companies produce safer aircraft.

Researchers at York University have won a €1m (£1m) European help aerospace companies produce safer aircraft.

The team of researchers from the Department of Electronics are a key part of a project, backed by major European aerospace companies, to improve the way aeroplanes and helicopters are designed  to reduce the risk of electromagnetic interference.

Modern aircraft are almost entirely reliant on electronic systems to fly.

It is therefore essential that those systems do not disrupt each other or suffer interference from high-powered radar, electronic communication or even lightning.

New aircraft are thoroughly tested for their vulnerability to electromagnetic interference, but this is usually at a relatively late stage of the production process.

A €28m (£28m) pan-European project is now under way, to explore ways of enhancing the computer-based modelling programmes used by designers, so that potential problems are identified much earlier.

Professor Andy Marvin, leading the York team working on the project, said: ‘If a modern aircraft experiences interference with its electronic systems it can have very serious consequences indeed, which is why it is essential that they are thoroughly tested before they fly.

‘This testing process, and rectifying any problems that are discovered, can prove very costly indeed.

‘If potential risks can be identified in the early stages of their design, that will improve safety and save manufacturers significant amounts of time and money.’

In addition to devising computer-aided design tools for aircraft manufacturers, the team will also be responsible for delivering seminars across Europe designed to encourage more scientists and engineers to take an interest in the field.

The €1m (£1m) awarded to the York research team, which also includes Dr John Dawson, Dr Linda Dawson, Dr Ian Flintoft, Dr Stuart Porter and Dr Martin Robinson, is the largest amount secured by any university as part of the High Intensity Radiated Field-Synthetic Environment research programme (HIRF-SE).

Alenia Aeronautica is leading the HIRF-SE project, which is supported by other major European aerospace companies, including BAE Systems, Dassault, Agusta Westland, Thales and Aermacchi.