Canada's NRC Aerospace is using Le Bourget to highlight the focus of its research - sectors within civil and military airspace it thinks have been neglected but which also dangle the prospect of a handsome payback for Canadian industry if development is successful, says NRC general manager Jerzy Komorowski.

The first is passenger and crew comfort, health and wellbeing, which Canada's national aerospace laboratory believes has not been addressed scientifically.

Komorowski says NRC intends to start by establishing a "global comfort index that addresses many of the direct and indirect factors that impact comfort". These include reduced air pressure, poor air quality and movement, excessive background noise and vibration, lack of privacy when speaking, inadequate lighting, unsatisfactory seat design and poor cabin layout.

The information gathered using the comfort index, says NRC, "will allow airframers, operators and cabin integrators to tailor their investments to aspects of the cabin design and environment that provide the best return on investment".

In addition, NRC has recognised the need for a cabin demonstrator platform. North America does not have one at present, but Komorowski says NRC already has a building that will house a narrowbody demonstrator, and it intends to construct a facility capable of simulating a range of cabin sizes and layouts in a "realistic cabin environment".

Canadian aerospace industry suppliers could use the platform to demonstrate emerging airline and business aviation cabin and environmental control technologies to commercial and corporate airframers and cabin integrators.

The intended result is to strengthen Canadian companies' success as suppliers to market sectors such as avionics, cabin interiors, environmental control systems, and in-flight entertainment and connectivity. Komorowski notes that airlines replace cabin interiors far more often than they replace aircraft.

NRC's second area of focused research includes three aspects regarding unmanned air systems that are impeding the civil adoption of UAS around the world. It is also assuming the biggest demand for UAS technology in the civil sector will be in systems that will work well on vehicles of less than 25kg (55lb) all-up weight.

The first UAS technology NRC is targeting is sense-and-avoid, which is critical for widespread UAS adoption within a common-use civil airspace environment. NRC is also working with Transport Canada to develop regulations for UAS operation against which technology could be certificated as acceptable in the international marketplace. Finally, it is researching the needs of UAS operators for technology that would enable reliable power line and pipeline surveillance, for which small UAS will be particularly cost-effective.

In the defence sector, NRC says it views "reducing the cost of owning and operating air defence equipment" both in terms of dollars and cost to the environment, as its primary duty is to the Canadian Department of National Defence. This includes supplying the maintenance, repair and overhaul market that is tasked with modernising or upgrading existing fleets to extend their useful life.

Once NRC research is complete it can be developed, often by small and medium enterprises, into products serving the military. Following that, NRC may help these companies to find civilian markets for the product or a derivative of it.

In general, says Komorowski, NRC sees its job as facilitating production and certification processes at Canadian aerospace companies, to make them more efficient, faster, more cost-effective, and to reduce - through research - the risk involved in embarking on projects.

The individual producer may devise the idea for a product, but the NRC can help and advise with the process of development, production, certification and even marketing.

Finally, NRC is supporting the demonstration and certification of new technologies that will "detect, characterise and mitigate" icing threats. Basic onboard anti-icing systems have not changed for half a century, but NRC believes systems for predicting icing, avoiding it, detecting accumulation and controlling its effects can be "far smarter than they are right now".

Canada's massive land area embraces climates varying from the fickle Atlantic and Pacific maritime environments, the Rocky Mountains and central area with a continental climate, and the north which penetrates well inside the Arctic Circle. Therefore, its aviation industry is accustomed to having to deal with widely varying icing risks, especially in winters that can last an exceedingly long time. That makes it a good marketplace for effective de-icing and anti-icing products, but also makes the industry well aware of the risks that must be countered.

One event that illustrated the importance of icing research came in June 2009, when an Air France Airbus A330 (AF447) momentarily lost airspeed readings because high-altitude ice crystals clogged the pitot system. If the crew had been warned to expect such icing conditions, they might have been able to avoid the conditions or, if they could not, would have been far less likely to have reacted with confusion to its symptoms.

In the case of AF447, crew confusion led to the loss of the aircraft so one area in which NRC is backing research is on the specific characteristics of high-level icing, its detection and mitigation. NRC is also pushing the boundaries of icing knowledge in other environments, having noted engineering companies can struggle when developing and testing icing control equipment because of a lack of tools to help simulate icing conditions during tests and trials.

This makes the process expensive, which is reflected in the product cost. NRC is backing research on "icing tools capable of simulating icing conditions that anticipate forthcoming regulations and lower the cost of product development and qualification". The NRC intends this to aid "the development of ice-detection sensors and wing and engine technologies that mitigate the effects of icing on lift and control surfaces, engines and air data probes". Meanwhile, it is examining a design that "reduces the harmful effects of icing on aircraft, engines and instrumentation".

Helping Canadian industry anticipate the needs created by new regulatory development, NRC says it is working with national and international regulatory agencies to develop calibration systems for ground-based certification and flight testing of icing. By doing this, the NRC says, it hopes to influence regulators to develop harmonised certification practices, making it simpler for equipment manufacturers to anticipate operators' needs, and to enable Canada to set up and operate approved icing certification facilities.

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Source: Flight Daily News