DARTeC, otherwise known as the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre, is a brand-new £65 million opportunity for aeronautical innovation and technological enhancement.
To be built on the grounds of Cranfield University’s Bedfordshire campus, DARTeC will act as a world-class driver for digital aviation technology and provide academics with unparalleled access to state-of-the-art research facilities. In doing so, Cranfield University hopes to address many of the issues facing aviation in the UK today.
Chief among them, the integration of potentially hazardous drone technology into civilian airspace. Drones are becoming ubiquitous, and their uptake poses a significant threat to air travel in the UK. The potential for mid-air collisions and near-misses is now very real.
Meanwhile, improving airport efficiency through emerging technologies, developing a shared airspace via secure data communication, and augmenting modern aircraft with self-sensing systems will each be explored in full.
Already, innovative virtual air traffic control towers are being considered for DARTeC, while next-generation radar technologies are to be trialled on Cranfield University’s very own licensed airport – a Civil Aviation Authority-approved route which promises greater flexibility and overall capacity.
As a “global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management”, Cranfield University seems a natural fit for DARTeC. And, once built, it may well become the biggest engine for innovation in UK aviation.
“The Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre will greatly advance the application of new innovative technology within the air transport sector,” said Professor Graham Braithwaite, Principal Investigator for DARTeC and Director of Transport Systems.
“Here at Cranfield, we are shaping the future of airports, aircraft, airspace and airlines, through the power of our research capabilities. The implementation of new novel technologies has the capacity to transform the way air transport operates, bringing greater efficiency and heightened safety.”
Funding for DARTeC will come from a consortium of leading aerospace and aviation companies including Thales, Raytheon, Saab, Monarch Aircraft Engineering, Boeing UK and Aveillant – in addition to Cranfield University itself.
DARTeC will also benefit from £15.5 million of funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), a scheme led by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, commented: “This is a fantastic example of business, academia and government coming together to create world-leading research facilities. Together with the Aerospace Integration Research Centre and the university’s own airport, the construction of DARTeC will see Cranfield offering the leading aerospace and aviation research facilities in Europe.
“The research at Cranfield will develop solutions for the aviation sector in the 21st century through collaboration between universities, business, government and regulatory authorities.”
A government spokesperson echoed those sentiments, stating: “The UK’s world-renowned leadership in science, research and innovation is helping to solve a range of national and global challenges, and the breadth of the projects funded today means this will continue.
“Through our Industrial Strategy and £4.7 billion investment for research and development, we’re ensuring we capitalise on the great work taking place in universities across the UK and remain at the forefront of innovation.”
Though the project remains in relative infancy, the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre represents an exciting prospect. The research conducted here has the potential to impact the future of UK flight for generations to come.
For more information, visit: www.cranfield.ac.uk/centres/digital-aviation-research-and-technology-centre
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