QinetiQ unveils new material to protect aircraft from impacts


QinetiQ unveiled a new material at the Farnborough International Airshow on July 13 that could make aircraft structures three times more resistant to impacts such as bird and drone strikes.

The material comprises high-energy absorbing titanium alloy wires, known as Shape Memory Alloy (SMA), that is woven into a carbon fiber reinforced polymer.

QinetiQ carried out tests simulating collisions with an aircraft’s leading edges, such as the nose and wings, which showed a threefold increase in strength compared with normal carbon fiber of the same mass.

Tests conducted in collaboration with GE Aviation and the National Composites Centre (NCC) have shown similar potential for protecting against burst tires and other debris that can be thrown up into the underside of an aircraft from a runway.

Statistics published by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reveal an average of over 10,000 bird strikes per year since 2009, with the annual number of strikes rising each consecutive year. An aircraft can be struck by lightning on average up to twice a year, and runway debris can cause tires to burst and impact critical aircraft components. Such damage costs the industry billions of dollars each year and, in the very worst cases, can lead to the loss of life.

Andrew Foreman, head of engineering research and consultancy at QinetiQ, said, “Most existing safety measures require extra material to be added to vulnerable areas, adding mass and compromising the aircraft’s efficiency. QinetiQ’s patented composite would enable operators to meet or exceed the same high regulatory standards without adding mass. A lighter aircraft uses less fuel, providing opportunities for lower emissions and higher airline profits.”

Click here for a video of QinetiQ’s new technology. 

July 15, 2016

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