Sending large packets of data to the ground from an aircraft or even a satellite is not at all straightforward. The spectrum of radio frequencies is over-subscribed and there is just no room for the extra radio traffic. That is a potential stumbling block for the many new businesses being set up to exploit advances around satellite- derived data technology and unmanned aircraft surveying or similar applications. Laser technology, proven in cD and DVD players, offers a solution. It lends itself to higher speed data transfers than radio waves and is not subject to radio frequency (rF) spectrum licensing. Yet keeping a laser beam fixed on a drone flying at 10 metres per second and being buffeted by air currents poses difficulties. A team of engineers based at Airbus Group Innovations in Newport, South Wales, has been trying to overcome the problem, working with Oxford University on project Hyperion, funded by Innovate UK. Installing a laser on the aircraft is impractical because of size and weight constraints. However, the team proved they could establish a data connection using a programmable reflective lens to steer the laser beam on to a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) and then ‘bouncing’ it back to the ground. Project leader Yoann Thueux explained: “A modulated retro-reflector on the UAV encodes the data before the beam is then reflected back, transformed into an electrical signal. We use infrared light, which is invisible, safe, and travels further than visible light.” The really clever innovation was using a solid-state technology to steer the beam so accurately that it could maintain the data link connection. Yoann added: “The laser beam pointing has to be very accurate in tracking a device measuring no more than 50mm square on a moving uaV more than a kilometre away. We have tested this to 1.2 kilometres. With more laser power, we could go to longer distances. “We have had very good results. this laser technology is limited by weather conditions and we’re not suggesting it will completely replace low data-rate rF communications for control and safety. However, this technology will allow you to download a massive amount of data when you have good visibility.” This case study was originally published in Innovate UK: Aerospace SME case studies, 2015 and is reproduced here under the Open Government Licence v 3.
Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) IT Strategy team engaged Prederi to undertake the development of its five year IT Strategy. Digital by Default has been adopted across the NHS to improve patient care and safety, patient experience with NHS services and enable better use of limited resources. WF CCG needed assistance to understand and implement the Digital by Default Standard.
Since the introduction of fire safety laws over ten years ago, fire safety is a legal necessity, and most commercial properties in the UK are fitted with compliant fire doors. Despite progress in raising awareness and improving standards, there have been fatal incidents, where inadequate or poorly fitted doors have contributed to the outcome. In one tragic case, the inquest ruled that death could have been avoided (1), if a self-closing fire door had not become stuck on the floor, preventing it from closing. Correct fitting is critical to ensure that fire doors remain compliant and meet the appropriate standards. Tests to certify doors to a declared fire resistance period (typically 30 or 60 minutes) become redundant, if not fitted properly or maintained over years of wear and tear. The consequences for safety are frighteningly obvious – one incident highlighted where blocked exits and door faults trapped hotel residents (2) and there are plenty of video examples where door-sets fail to impede fire (3) as planned. The financial implications for the building manager and owner are significant with hefty fines for fault or negligence. Property management companies are held to account in cases where the council carry out inspections, such as Kier Stoke (4). However, the laws and standards can be confusing – and EU policy makers are urged to review them for the hotel and tourism industry (5). Alarmingly, statistics from Fire Door Safety Week (6) indicate that 45% of building managers do not know how to spot a problem with their fire doors.
Applying chrome-based coatings has proved a very effective way of protecting aerospace systems and components from corrosion over the 40-year life of a typical aircraft. Unfortunately, these ‘hexavalent chrome’ compounds also cause cancer and are prone to damage the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. The process is being phased out from 2017 under European REACH (registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals) legislation. That poses particular problems for smaller companies who lack the resources and scientific knowledge to research and develop alternatives – and it’s often their employees who need protecting most. The Challenge So 3 years ago Innovate UK offered up to £2 million funding for companies throughout the aerospace supply chain to get together to address the issues. The engineering and physical sciences research council was a co-founder of the project, which involved 17 partners, including 3 universities. The project aimed to: Establish new, common test methodologies for surface protective coatings Identify and demonstrate hexavalent chrome-free surface protection systems Improve science-based understanding of the coatings, surfaces and how to optimise them Set up a knowledge management and dissemination system The Consortium Rolls-Royce led the successful consortium exploring chemical processes that might offer alternative and viable ways to provide similar anti-corrosion properties. Among the participants was Birmingham-based SME Ashton & Moore, who started in the aerospace industry through applying coatings to fighter aircraft components during World War II. Dr. Keith Tucker, managing director, said: “Hexavalent chrome is in about 80% of things that we do. We hold approvals for 27 different prime contractors. If they don’t want their supply base to be drastically reduced, we must coordinate our efforts to find a common solution. “As a relatively small company with 100 people and a turnover of £3-4 million we don’t have the budget to do this kind of in-depth scientific research. “The project was really good because it kept us up to date with everything the primes were looking at. the sooner we know which way they are going to go; the more time we have to react.” Everyone appreciated that if they could point the way to new protective treatments and design practices, the UK would be in a strong position to influence international standards – and win global business. As hoped, with companies of all sizes supported by high-calibre academic thinking, a number are collaborating on allied topics. The aerospace industry has to apply very stringent safety considerations to any new or substitute technology. Brian Norton, managing director of Indestructible paint at Sparkhill in Birmingham, outlined the problem: “There are 8,000 parts in a car, but 3 million in an aircraft. It doesn’t matter too much if a car rusts. But if you get a rusty plane … well, there are no lay-bys at 35,000 feet. “To change a design concept is very difficult. And aircraft are built from such things as an aluminum body, a magnesium gearbox on an engine, steel and alloy turbine parts that spin. each of those uses a different chromate. “if you see a new airbus before being painted, it’s green. that’s strontium chromate. the project has dealt with strontium chromate paints and primers – and hard chrome plating on axles too.” Bryan Allcock, of Monitor coatings, based in North shields, Tyne and Wear, said the project had achieved all its major milestones: “As a business, we are more enlightened than we were before – on the legislation and the available alternatives. “Do we have a definitive solution? We’re probably a bit way off that yet. But that was never an objective of this project, which was to move things forward, put the REACH legislation into perspective from a technical and commercial point of view. “Without Innovate UK, it definitely wouldn’t have happened in the same way and it would have taken a lot longer. We are unpacking a piece of legislation, trying to find a technical solution, and you need to be incredibly focused and coordinated.” The consortium partners were: Rolls-Royce plc, Agusta Westland, Ashton & Moore, BAe systems (operations) Ltd, short Brothers plc, Ge Aviation systems, Goodrich Actuation Systems Ltd, Granta Design Ltd, Indestructible paint Ltd, Meggitt Aerospace Ltd, Messier Dowty Ltd, Monitor coatings Ltd, Poeton Industries Ltd, Aero engine controls. The academic partners were the universities of Loughborough, Manchester and Southampton. This case study was originally published in Innovate UK: Aerospace SME case studies, 2015 and is reproduced here under the Open Government Licence v 3.
Aero-engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce earns half of its civil aerospace revenue from servicing engines, often on long-term maintenance contracts offering total support. It means that the manufacturer, not the operator, takes the financial risk on what the maintenance costs are likely to be. Being able to estimate the remaining useful, or safe, life of a component through innovation in diagnostics and prognostics could bring considerable cost savings to both operators and manufacturers. Innovate UK has funded a two-year collaborative R&D project in this area, ‘Assessment of on-wing engine health’, led by Rolls-Royce. Humaware, its business partner, was awarded £83,000 towards its costs. It is a five-man company based on the University of Southampton science park. Ken Pipe, Humaware’s managing director, is an international authority on predictive health monitoring and maintenance using Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) data, and on certification of the processes. “It’s all about maximizing the value of an asset,” he explained. “the objective of prognostics technology is to move beyond risk-based, preventative maintenance to condition-based maintenance where you only change a component because it will become unserviceable if you don’t.” “Nobody risks an airliner failing,” added Ken. “But if you use prognostics, you only maintain when you need to– there is no waste of that resource. In aerospace that’s enormous because, apart from the cost of spare parts, there’s the cost of grounded aircraft being unavailable.” The challenge has been to prove that the prognostics can satisfy even the most stringent safety standards set by the certification authorities. Ken said: “Humaware’s contribution to the project was to develop a proposed certification process for gaining maintenance credits that could be approved by an airworthiness regulator. We could not have afforded to invest at that level or get the support of a large company like Rolls-Royce entirely on our own. “I’m very grateful for the support I’ve had from Innovate UK. it gets us involved in major R&D programs where you can do a significant amount of work.” Predictive health monitoring can be applied across a range of industries, not just aerospace but also rail and oil and gas. Humaware is currently involved in another Innovate UK- funded collaborative R&D project with London Underground. This case study was originally published in Innovate UK: Aerospace SME case studies, 2015 and is reproduced here under the Open Government Licence v 3.