European Union administrators are set to provide official funding for a group of 36 research projects that they believe will help make air transport greener, safer, more secure and more cost-efficient.
The four large and 32 smaller projects will conduct research in varied areas, such as using flight physics and alternative fuels to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for aircraft, and developing new systems to improve aircraft safety in bad weather.
Other exotic areas will include developing aircraft materials that can repair themselves, and creating blast-proof aircraft cabin structures. Other projects will seek ways of reducing production and development costs for airframes, aircraft structures, engines and components.
The European Commission (the European Union''s administrative body) received 196 proposals after issuing a call earlier this year for research proposals in aeronautics and air transport. After short-listing 89 of these, independent evaluators eventually selected the 36 most promising ones to receive funding.
All of the projects are expected to start in January 2008.
The EU is funding them under its Seventh Framework Program for Research (FP7), which will make available a total of euros 2.1 billion ($2.98 billion) for aeronautics research in the period from 2007 to 2013. The first batch of 36 projects now selected will receive euros 217 million ($308 million).
Four major projects
Almost half of the first lot of funding of $308 million will go to four large projects, each of which is to be led by a major air transport industry manufacturer. Each of these projects is intended to pursue the dual goals of reinforcing Europe''s industrial leadership and responding to aviation environmental and safety concerns.
The four large projects are:
DREAM, a project more formally known as Validation of Radical Engine Architecture Systems. Led by Rolls-Royce and involving 47 partners from 13 countries, DREAM will develop new engine concepts based on open, contra-rotating rotors. The project will also develop specifications for alternate fuels, and will assess and test potential future fuels.
MAAXIMUS, an acronym for "More Affordable Aircraft Structure through Extended, Integrated and Mature Numerical Sizing." This project has 58 partners from 18 countries and is led by Airbus. It aims to improve the composition and design of aircraft fuselages, in order to cut assembly time in half and to reduce structural weight by 10 per cent, which in turn would reduce CO2 emissions.
HIRF SE, which stands for High Intensity Radiated Field Synthetic Environment. Involving 44 partners from 11 countries under the leadership of Alenia, this project will create simulators to test the reaction of new aircraft to electromagnetic interference. This area of research is particularly important because of the growing use of composite materials in aircraft.
SCARLETT, a project led by Thales to develop advanced modular avionics platforms for a range of aircraft types.
Other projects will conduct research into areas such as extreme icing environments; biofuels for aviation use; future avionics architecture for small-aircraft; smart high-lift devices for next-generation wings; blast-worthy textile-based luggage containers; flutter-free turbomachinery blades; and long-term advanced propulsion concepts.