Airbus and French regional aerospace R&D cluster select four environmental SME projects for further support
(graphic: Aerospace Valley)
Mon 1 Jun 2015 – Following a Europe-wide call last year to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for ideas to improve aviation eco-performance, Airbus and French R&D cluster Aerospace Valley have chosen to take forward four projects. From 59 ideas submitted, seven teams were invited to pitch their projects to a jury of representatives and experts from the two organisations, which assessed the measurable positive impact of their proposals on the environment, the ease of implementation and the level of innovation consistent with the environmental priorities of Airbus. One of the projects selected, from Toulouse-based Innov’ATM, introduces artificial intelligence into the management of ground movement operations and optimise the pushback and taxiing time for aircraft to reach the runway threshold before take-off. The concept is inspired by the behaviour of ants when searching for food.
The other projects are an innovative de-icing system designed by aerospace engineering school ISAE and engineering college and research institute INSA, a study by ONERA into the influence of jet fuel composition, and research by VESO Concept into bio materials for cabin interiors. The four projects can expect assistance in the search for funding and technological partnerships from Airbus, as well as collaboration to help them develop their ideas in the short term.
“This contest is one of the initiatives we began to open Airbus to external ideas coming from our eco-system and in particular from small companies. The call for ideas was a real success with regard to both the number of applications and the quality of the proposals,” said Yann Barbaux, Chief Innovation Officer at Airbus. “We’ll make sure that the winning projects will be closely followed up by our teams.”
The Innov’ATM project has also been selected to be accelerated within the Airbus BizLAb, a recently-launched global network of accelerator facilities that the aircraft manufacturer says has been created to speed up the transformation of ground-breaking ideas into valuable business propositions.
The concept is to provide air traffic controllers with the optimised push-back time for each aircraft and the optimised taxiway path to reach the runway so that waiting time is minimised at the take-off threshold. There is currently no target speed in place for aircraft while taxiing and the system is aiming to iron out the intrinsic uncertainties over the predictability of taxiing times.
According to Airbus, the most efficient algorithm to solve the predictability problem is inspired by studying the behaviour of ants. Innov’ATM models this with a complex graph and the idea is to let the ants determine the shortest and less costly path from the start of the graph – which represents the nest of the ant colony – to the end of the graph – which represents food for the colony.
Aerospace Valley is a cluster of aerospace engineering companies and research centres located in the Midi-Pyrénées and Aquitaine region, mainly in and around Toulouse, and is a member of the European Aviation Clusters Partnership. It has over 800 members, including 470 SMEs, and has had nearly 700 R&D projects certified.
Commenting on the initiative with Airbus, Agnès Paillard, Aerospace Valley President, said: “This is a great opportunity for European SMEs and laboratories willing to start collaborations with Airbus and the Aerospace Valley community. We are convinced that the selected ideas bring interesting concepts to the environmental challenges of civil aviation. Aerospace Valley will therefore support these contributors by helping them to mature their concepts and to transform these ideas into concrete projects or products.”
Meanwhile, a group of students from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has won the fourth Airbus Fly Your Ideas global competition, organised in partnership with UNESCO, for a design that entails aircraft wings dressed in a composite skin that harvests energy from natural vibrations or flex in the wings.
Piezoelectric fibres gather electrical charges from even the smallest movements during flight, explains Airbus, storing the energy generated in battery panels integrated in the fuselage and using it to power auxiliary in-flight systems, such as lighting and entertainment systems. This reduces the energy footprint of aircraft during flight and could even replace the entire power source for ground operations.
The five all-Indian members of Team Multifun, which received the top prize of €30,000 ($33,000) at an event in Hamburg, are based in India (Indian Institute of Science Bangalore), the UK (City Universtity London), the USA (Georgia Tech) and the Netherlands (Delft University of Technology), and only physically came together for the first time at the final round of the event.
The runner-up, with a prize of €15,000, was Team Retrolley from the University of São Paulo in Brazil. The students gathered information from aviation industry representatives to come up with a practical and simple to implement idea for a system that tackles waste reduction in-flight and cuts down the time taken to collect and sort rubbish post-flight, speeding up airline operations, particularly for short-haul carriers.