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.
“It is great having Clarus Knight on board. They are accessible, driven, relatable and understand what it is like to run a small business. They help us look at our finances strategically rather than putting a finger in the sky, and this support has helped us to become a more professional company.”
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.
Karen Livesey is a documentary film maker who comes from a politically active, campaigning background. She attended film school in Sheffield, studying cinematography and directing. This is when she first became interested in the gender divide – specifically, what separated “men’s work” from “women’s work”. The inspiration for the Ladies Bridge documentary came from a story Karen heard in Sheffield: that Waterloo Bridge had been almost entirely rebuilt by women during the Second World War. The river boat pilots on the Thames knew the story, although they didn’t know how they knew it: as they passed under Waterloo Bridge tour guides would always tell tourists the story of the women who had worked on it. The story had been handed down orally, but did not appear to have been documented, and so wasn’t classed as “official history”. Karen was astonished that this wasn’t part of any official record, and so – somewhat optimistically, as she admits – started to try and track down the truth.
Optical sensing technology has the potential to bring really big innovations in aerospace closer to reality – such as the next generation of composite wings and all-electric aircraft. Electrical sensors have been standard on aircraft for decades but are prone to electrical interference, so they need to be shielded from other wiring – and this adds weight. Optical sensors and their fibre-optic cabling solve the problem as they are immune to these effects and can also can handle multiple measurements more efficiently “They’re not even affected by a lightning strike,” said Tim Hall, senior project engineer at Oxsensis, a £1.3 million turnover company employing 22 people on the Harwell science and innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. But when it comes to hostile environments, there is none much harsher than on aircraft landing gear. Temperatures vary from -55°c to 85°c, dirt and debris are thrown up by tyres and the shock and vibration of a landing is actually much greater than anything felt by the passengers. “It’s a tough place for a sensor,” said Tim. so that is where his company’s optical sensor technology will be tested, in an innovate UK-funded project involving airbus and another sensor sMe, smart fibers, of Bracknell. “We’re quite a small company and it was a big privilege for us to work with a giant like airbus. Landing gear is a new area for us. to get their input on our technology development was really good.” The other outcome was more surprising: a competitor becoming a collaborative partner. Tim explained: “We’re both optical sensing companies but working together, as we did, we could actually see that our technology was complementary. Rather than displace each other, we could each produce something that was more likely to get on an aircraft.” Both companies were invited to join a follow-on project with tier 1 aerospace suppliers. Tim acknowledged that it would not have been possible without Innovate UK. “They made us and smart Fibres work collaboratively. Normally, airbus wouldn’t speak to us. and without the funding, we wouldn’t have been able to build a demonstrator.” 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.
One of Europe’s oldest libraries, Oxford University’s Bodleian Library (in its current form) dates back to 1602. Specialist stone restoration company Putney & Wood was tasked with laboriously restoring some of the world-famous library’s most precious internal and external stonework. DPI Photography was commissioned by construction marketing company Keystone Construction to record the end results of this painstaking and vital work.
LMB are a Shirley-based loft conversion company that are expert in turning unused lofts into beautiful living spaces. They’re specialists in optimising compact spaces, using every inch of floor to create bespoke rooms that feel as generously proportioned as they possibly can. They recruited Darren’s services as they required a set of images that would show off their high-specification portfolio of converted lofts to prospective clients.
UK firm develops satellite-linked monitoring technology offering huge benefits for operators of vessels of all sizes on the world's oceans. A Gosport company is pioneering technology which can monitor the biggest marine diesel engines on the high seas and transmit a simple ‘health score’ to a vessel’s operator thousands of miles away. Being able to predict when a supertanker, container vessel or cruise ship needs to be brought into port for engine maintenance can avoid breakdowns at sea, saving six-figure sums for shipping owners and management companies. IntelliMon, part of STS Defence Ltd, led a consortium which received £1 million of Innovate UK funding to develop the ground breaking diagnostic technology through a two-year collaborative R&D project called IConIC (Intelligent Condition monitoring with Integrated Communications). It involved two other south coast businesses, NGnuity Ltd and LW Partners Ltd, along with the Universities of Portsmouth and Southampton and the Satellite Applications Catapult.
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.
Innovative engineering firm expands its expertise from the trawling of the sea bed to dredging of radioactive sludge on nuclear sites. Engineering firm Barrnon Ltd has used its expertise in providing durable trawling gear for fishermen to develop a new technique for removing nuclear waste. The business developed its Bladecutter technology with the help of an Innovate UK award. The dredging system has been used to remove radioactive sludge in large ponds on historic nuclear sites. Removing the sludge demands the same heavy duty dredging gear operating in a harsh environment such as the sea bed. The technology has opened up a worldwide market worth an estimated £100 million. Bladecutter used in decommissioning of nuclear plant Bladecutter and its improved successor, Bladecutter 2, were successfully used in the decommissioning of Hunterston nuclear power station. Barrnon has since developed a complete suite of innovative nuclear decommissioning equipment, incorporating emerging technologies such as robotics and virtual reality. The company now works alongside engineering giants such as Atkins, Toshiba, TEPCO and IHI Corporation to tackle environmental threats at nuclear sites worldwide – including Sellafield, UK; Fukushima, Japan; and Hanford, USA. This case study has been republished under the Open Government Licence v3.0
Westridge Construction, which has a contract with Brighton District Council, approached Darren and asked him to photograph a number of completed projects. One of these was Withdean Sports Complex, an eye-catching glass building owned by Brighton and Hove City Council. Darren’s remit was to produce images suitable for use in marketing materials and online.