Dartec announces focus for digital aviation research

Cranfield University and its partners in the £67m Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) announced the five primary research challenges that the centre will tackle when it opens in early 2020.

Launching the challenges in a white paper, entitled ‘Addressing the digital aviation challenge’, the partnership behind DARTeC will set out how they will aim to unlock the potential of digital aviation for the UK and global aviation industry.

Addressing the digital aviation challenge, DARTeC’s five primary research areas will be:

  • Connected systems – developing digital systems that will operate at speeds that the current Aircraft Condition Monitoring System (ACARS) and the Aircraft Condition Monitoring System (ACMS) are not capable of producing.
  • Unmanned traffic management – developing airspace management solutions that will bring higher levels of system resilience, safety and security while adapting to competition from UAVs to operate in the same airspace.
  • Seamless passenger experience – developing a more personalised, intuitive and less stressful passenger experience by using digital integrated technology to examine challenges such as unified security, the elimination of triple waiting areas, optimised passenger flows and baggage separation.
  • Distributed airport and airspace management – developing the next generation of air traffic control in an environment of steadily increasing air traffic density and ‘on-demand’ requests
  • Conscious aircraft – developing technology and systems that would allow aircraft to monitor its current health, allowing it to reliably predict the useful life or components and systems, while automatically adapting to optimise their remaining life.

Launching DARTeC’s five research priorities at the Farnborough International Show, Professor Graham Braithwaite, Project Lead and Director of Transport Systems at Cranfield University, said: “Aviation is a key sector for the UK economy contributing £52bn to UK GDP but the sector’s present rate of growth is simply not sustainable.

“We need new digital solutions to tackle the challenges of over-capacity in both airports and airspace, we need to create passenger experiences more fitting of the 21st century and we need to create more sustainable air travel. Working with our partners, DARTeC will greatly advance the application of innovative technologies within the air transport sector and will unlock the potential of digital aviation.”

While many of the challenges of digital aviation are understood individually, there are very few opportunities to address them simultaneously within a collaborative research and technology environment. DARTeC will offer that opportunity by creating a ‘research eco-system’ underpinned by Cranfield’s global research airport and the University’s newly-opened autonomous vehicle research facility.

Funding for DARTeC is being provided by a consortium of leading aerospace and aviation companies including Thales, SAAB, Monarch Aircraft Engineering Limited, Aveillant – as well as Cranfield University. The Centre is also benefiting from £15.5m of funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), a scheme led by Research England.

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