New EU project promises better aircraft flight-control systems

An EU-funded project to develop a new computer-aided system for the early phase of aircraft design has begun under the leadership of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

The aim of the project is to pull in all the expertise needed to design aircraft control systems at the earliest stages of the process, in order to reduce wasted effort on faulty designs.

SimSAC, ‘Simulating aircraft stability and control characteristics for use in conceptual design’ is a thirty six months long project with a budget of ?5.1 million, with ?3.3 million provided by
the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

‘New aeroplanes must meet rigorous requirements for energy efficiency, environmental friendliness, aviation safety, and high performance at a low operational cost. Early multidisciplinary work
that is followed up throughout the developmental process is an indispensable tool,’ says Arthur Rizzi, professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and coordinator of the project.

Currently, the hugely important control systems of aircraft are usually constructed only after the main features of the plane have been determined. By including the control system earlier in
the development process, it is hoped that this will increase the chances of getting the design right the first time.

‘Up to 80% of the total cost of an aeroplane’s life cycle is set during the early design phase, so mistakes are expensive. Faulty assumptions about stability and control lead to costly and
failed test flights. This can involve the loss of prototypes and, in the worst case, human life. To minimise risks, multidisciplinary analyses should be introduced early in the developmental
process, and decisions should be based more on simulations than on empirical data,’ says Professor Rizzi.

‘We Europeans must step up our competence in the field, since Europe has fallen behind the US. Competition is also increasing from the growing Asian aeronautics industry, and this
interdisciplinary project is designed to help Europe regain the lead,’ explains Professor Rizzi. In total 17 representatives of the European academic community and the aeronautics industry from
nine countries will collaborate in SimSAC.

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