The UK is to build a £65 million ($85 million) center at Cranfield University to perform research into the application of digital technologies across aviation from aircraft to airports and manufacturing to maintenance.
Funding for the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Center (DARTeC) will be provided by a consortium of aerospace and aviation companies, the university and a £15.5 million grant from the UK government’s Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKPIF).
Companies involved include Thales, Raytheon, Saab, Boeing UK, Aveillant and airline maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider Monarch Aircraft Engineering.
“We are building something that is unique,” says DARTeC principal investigator Graham Braithwaite, director of transport systems at Cranfield. The center will prove physical space for research “at scale” on harnessing the power of data to improve efficiency, from passenger experience to aircraft maintenance, he says, adding companies large and small will be able to use the center to collaborate of research.
Areas of research identified include: improving aircraft reliability and availability through self-sensing technologies; increasing airport efficiency; integrating drones into civilian airspace; and creating safe shared airspace through secure data communications. The university’s licensed airport will be used for research into virtual control tower and next-generation radar technologies.
Combining research disciplines across the university, the center plans to look at new business models for aviation; autonomy in flight and on the ground; paperless MRO; connected cabins; augmented reality for MRO on the ground and in flight; seamless passenger handling; and urban airspace management.
Research will also involve the Aerospace Integration Research Center at Cranfield, a £30 million facility being built with funding support from Airbus and Rolls-Royce and with £10 million from the UKPIF. This center is researching technologies to performance, efficiency and emissions targets for future aircraft.