The global aerospace sector is facing significant carbon reduction, noise and nitrogen oxide emissions reduction targets. The development of more electric aircraft (MEA) components and systems is a major area of research to help achieve these reduction targets.

The Helicopter Electro-Mechanical Actuation System (HEMAS), funded by the Clean Sky programme, is a highly innovative proof of concept demonstrator developed by the University of Nottingham and leading industry partners. The system demonstrates the benefits of electrification technologies by replacing the hydraulic system with a fully controllable and fault-tolerant electro-mechanical actuation system for helicopter swashplate control.



Advanced composite aerostructures for de-icing

MACANTA – Multifunctional Hierarchical Advanced Composite Aerostructures Utilising the Combined Properties of Different Carbon Nanotube Assemblies – is a £1 million project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It brings together a multidisciplinary research team who are developing multifunctional composite aerostructures using different carbon nanotube (CNT) assemblies.

One particular assembly (or architecture) is a highly-aligned CNT web, with a densified thickness of 50nm and aerial density of 20mg/sqm. This web has been successfully embedded in structural joints and shown to be a highly effective, ultra-sensitive strain and damage sensor.

By stacking this web at different orientations, a fully tailorable energy-efficient heating element was also shown to be a viable anti-icing/de-icing device. Additional funding has since been secured to progress this technology to commercialisation.

For more information about the project, please see the MACANTA website.

As part of the UK Aerospace Technology Institute funded Agile Wing Integration (AWI) project, the University of Bristol and Airbus UK have performed low-speed wind tunnel tests on a very flexible 2.4m long model wing.

The objective of the tests has been to validate nonlinear aeroelastic predictions of the static and dynamic behaviour of high-aspect-ratio wings by making detailed simultaneous structural and aerodynamic measurements. Static tests have included the measurement of deflections and resulting lift, drag and pressure distributions for different speeds and root angle of attack. Further tests have characterised the dynamic behaviour, including limit cycle oscillations occurring due to geometric nonlinearities and stall.

Researchers at Imperial College London are supporting the design of solar-powered high-altitude pseudosatellites. A major challenge is the prediction of the dynamics of vehicles near the ground, which currently puts severe constraints on their take-off and landing windows.

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The MAGMA project is a collaboration between the University of Manchester and BAE Systems with the goal of developing and demonstrating novel flight control effectors for aircraft. The project recently achieved an aerospace first in completing a fully controlled circuit using fluidic controls only (no moving surfaces).

Bill Crowther, senior academic and leader of the MAGMA project at the University of Manchester, said: “We are excited to have been part of a long-standing effort to change the way in which aircraft can be controlled, going all the way back to the invention of wing warping by the Wright brothers. It has been a great project for students to be part of, highlighting that real innovation in engineering is more about finding practical solutions to many hundreds of small technical challenges than having single moments of inspiration. The partnership with BAE Systems has allowed us the freedom as a university to focus on research adventure, with BAE providing the pathway to industrial application.

“We made our first fluidic thrust vectoring nozzle from glued together bits of plastic and tested it on a hair drier fan nearly 20 years ago. Today, BAE is 3D printing our components out of titanium and we are flight testing them on the back of a jet engine in an aircraft designed and built by the project team. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Watch a video of conventional controlled MAGMA variant flight trials and fluidic MAGMA variant flight trials