Computer simulations for safer planes
The research being carried out by the UPC’s Electromagnetic Compatibility Group is aimed at improving safety and reducing the cost of building aircraft.
Reducing the interference that affects electronic equipment on passenger aircraft, cargo planes, unmanned planes, and helicopters, and improving their design through the use of computer simulations are the objectives behind a European project led by the Electromagnetic Compatibility Group of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC).
The project on electromagnetic compatibility measures in aircraft, known as High Intensity Radiated Field Synthetic Environment (HIRF-SE), focuses on investigating how computer simulations can be used to replace some of the electromagnetic compatibility tests currently carried out on real planes. According to Ferran Silva, the head of the group, “these tests are costly in terms of space, time and money, repetitive, and in some cases even destructive.”
The project, which involves 44 partners in 11 European countries, is driven by two key factors: the growing number and complexity of electronic devices installed in aircraft, and the fact that “conducting elements are increasingly being replaced by fiberglass and carbon composites in fuselage construction, materials which are lighter but make electronic systems more vulnerable to interference,” says Silva.
The aircraft flight control system, the communication system, radar equipment, alarms, and all the other control systems used on planes are exposed to interference from sources such as external radar systems, electronic devices used by passengers, lightning strikes, and in the case of helicopters, high-voltage electric lines.
The group's work, which is being carried out at the mid-point of the project, examines the feasibility of replacing conventional electromagnetic compatibility tests with simulations. This involves measuring aircraft parts to create a numerical simulation of a complete helicopter. The work is being carried out at a laboratory on the North Campus and is expected to be completed early in 2012. The team is also working with a group at the UPC’s International Center for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE) to develop part of the simulation software.
As well as reducing costs, the project will improve the design of aircraft before they are built and increase the efficiency of testing by making it possible to test different scenarios for all aircraft parts, for example, by looking at the effects of a lightning strike.
The Electromagnetic Compatibility Group is part of the electronic and biomedical instrumentation research line of the Department of Electronic Engineering and belongs to the Catalan government’s TECNIO Technological InnovationNetwork.
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