£67m DARTeC digital aviation research centre opened in UK


The new £67 million (U$S93 million) Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) has been officially opened at Cranfield University to develop new applications for digital technology in aviation.

The Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) aims to advance the application of digital technologies in the air transport sector.

Research projects are already underway at DARTeC looking at the digitalization of processes  air traffic management and airport infrastructure to help aviation reduce its carbon emissions and support the industry to bounce back stronger from Covid-19.

DARTeC aims to address some of the main research challenges facing the aviation industry, including:

  • the integration of drones into civilian airspace;
  • increasing the efficiency of airports through technological advances;
  • creating safe, secure shared airspace through secure data communication infrastructures;
  • increasing the reliability and availability of aircraft utilising self-sensing/aware and self-healing/repair technologies.

The facility is located next to Cranfield’s airport and consists of a central building with digital aviation research laboratories and open plan office space where staff, students and partners work together. It also features a partially covered hangar laboratory connected to Cranfield’s 737-400 aircraft through an airport-style air bridge.

Ongoing research at DARTeC includes nine projects that are part of UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge, with a total award value of over £8.5 million (US$12 million).

Professor Graham Braithwaite, project lead and director of transport systems at Cranfield, said, “DARTeC is already playing a pivotal role in helping to define and develop the aircraft, airports, airlines and airspace management systems of the future, illustrating what is possible through the power of partnership and collaboration.”

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, CEO and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University, said, “The opening of DARTeC marks another stage in Cranfield’s proud history and heritage in aircraft and aviation research over the last 70 years.

“The Centre will provide a unique national asset for the ground-breaking research which will be key to overcoming the challenges of future flight and delivering sustainable growth for the aviation sector.”

Cranfield University’s licensed airport features the first operational digital air traffic control tower in the UK and next-generation radar technologies for use in R&D programs. It is co-located with the National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC), which provide a safe, managed environment for drone and unmanned aircraft experimentation.

DARTeC consortium partners include Aveillant, Blue Bear Systems Research, Boeing, BOXARR, Connected Places Catapult, Cranfield University, Etihad Airways, Heathrow, Inmarsat, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the IVHM Centre, Saab, Satellite Applications Catapult, Spirent Communications and Thales.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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