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With Airbus' Zephyr drone pushing the limits of aviation to reach an altitude of 74,000ft in the stratosphere during test flights, we would like to ask - where do you think the atmosphere ends and space begins?

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Five minutes with Mike Sheehan, CEO of Assystem Technologies UK

Mike Sheehan, Assystem Technologies


I’ve spent thirty years with Assystem Technologies in one form or another, prior to that I worked for the UK’s Ministry of Defence.


Assystem Technologies is rapidly growing in terms of its provision of engineering, quality and digital engineering solutions. We’ve got over 14,000 staff in 25 countries.



Our largest sector is aerospace, traditionally we have worked with engine manufacturers and airframers during the development phase. But several years ago we did foresee the time when the number of new aircraft introductions would diminish, so we’ve diversified into testing-related support, manufacturing engineering and In-Service support.



We offer a full range of capabilities to the aerospace sector; structures design and mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and avionics, mainly across Europe and the US. We also have a presence in India. We’re not so much involved in advanced aerodynamics, we work more from the concept definition stage, taking that concept and developing it into a manufacturing definition, looking at things like lifecycle, damage tolerance and manufacturability.



The acquisition of Stirling Dynamics extends our offering in a number of ways. They have specialist capabilities in high integrity advanced engineering, active controls and motion queuing systems that are highly complimentary to our existing offering. It means we will be able to offer our customers a broader range of capabilities in actuation and simulation. Plus, they have expertise in areas like landing gear and aeroelasticity.



Generally-speaking, there are lots of exciting areas in aerospace at the moment. One that interests me the most is the new materials that are being developed. If we want to extend the performance capability of structures, or reduce the noise of engines further for example, we need new and advanced metallic alloys and composites.



Another exciting area is digitalization and electrification. The methodologies and the management of information around the product is an area of great potential. There is so much sensing technology deployed and gathering data. The challenge for our engineers is to interpret that data and look for the information and trends that can improve designs and predict the lifetime of products more accurately.



Where this digitalization will impact testing most is in terms of cost and time. Physically testing huge structures and aero-engines is a costly and a lengthy process – everyone wants to reduce time to market. If we can gather information from products that are already in service and apply it to both analysis and physical testing techniques, we can potentially reduce the overall test requirements and save time and money.



Similarly, on the electronics and avionics-side, we’re designing and building electronic test rigs that are simulating hardware and software-in the loop. Reducing development time and costs. We’re only going to see an increase in this type of simulation in the future.



Overall, it’s a great time to get into the aerospace sector. We need more young engineers, particularly with multi-disciplinary approach and as a company we are committed to their personal and career development. It’s a fascinating career and the pace of change right now, with drivers like digitalization and the Internet of Things will continue to offer new opportunities and variety.


As told to Ben Sampson


May 2, 2018







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