50: Aeronautics :strong links with industry

When the UTC-Roberval Lab was created, back in 2000, by the merger of the LG2mS (Mechanical engineering and for Materials and Structures) and some other research units, it was placed under a joint hierarchy: UTC and the CNRS. So, what are key features of the Roberval research Lab? Firstly, we can cite the noteworthy, excellent reputation of the research scientists’ teams and the strong links they have built with a variety of industrial sectors.

50: Aeronautics :strong links with industry

Hydraulic drones

With 25 years' experience behind him in industry, notably with Dassault Aviation and the Renault Groupe, Éric Noppe was appointed in 2010 to the Chair of Hydraulics and Mechatronics. He is currently working on a project for a hydraulic transmission drone in a collaboration with the UTC-Heudiasyc lab, the CETIM, and ARTEMA (professional trade union). The plan is to have a demonstrator flying within a year.

Why create a Chair for Hydraulics and Mechatronics at UTC? "The basic reason was to "dust down" and spruce up some old technology, viz., hydraulics, a technology going back to the1920s with the arrival of new technologies, notably Computer sciences and EDP", explains Éric Noppe. The creation also matched needs expressed by mechanical engineering industrialists. The developments due to computer science and EDP are enormous, and it is the case in mechanical engineering. That indeed led to the coining of the word mechatronics. "First used in Japan in the 1980s; this term embodied the idea that mechanical systems are not just assembled mechanisms and parts but they also integrate a control system, with automation, sensors and electronics", recalls Éric Noppe.

Does this industrial chair have any special feature? The Chair holder was recruited for his expertise in a specific field, viz., hydraulic power transmission systems and has two assigned missions: one lies in a teaching commitment and the other in R& D. "The Chair is 'piloted' by an ensemble of committees and by the industrialists who finance operations whilst fully respecting the university missions, i.e., the academic teaching and research. Our job is to teach the students, to develop their knowledge base and to explain new concepts even if the general chair orientation is provided by the industrial partners", underlines Éric Noppe, who also cotes the Chair of Glass Windows, totally financed by the Saint-Gobain Group. In the case of the Chair of Hydraulics and Mechatronics, and because there is no major company in this field, the funding came via several actors: the Region Hauts-de-France, UIMM (professional sector trade union for metallurgy ...) and the CETIM -technical centre for mechanical engineering industries). This technical centre, created in 1965, was set up in 1971, in the nearby town of Senlis and with UTC, created in 1973, has have collaborated seriously at a constant level of interaction, ever since they both came on the scene in the early 70s. This collaboration which is both pedagogical and in partnership contract research continues as well as ever before, witness the fact that their framework agreement will be renewed in 2019.

One of the stakes and challenges today? "Well, notably to give young people the desire to train for this technology in order to meet the needs of industrialists and professionals of power transmission systems. Hence the project to build a hydraulic drone", he adds. As he sees it, a drone project had two lives. "The first step consisted in capturing the students' attention by proposing an innovative design; that was a success. The second step, ongoing today, is to collaborate with UTC-Heudiasyc, the CETIM and ARTEMA the professional trade union for mechatronic industrialists, to develop a service-oriented drone employing a hydraulic power transmission system", he says.

After envisaging a 4 propeller-driven drone in the 300-500 kg range - a sort of taxi drone for a Smart City setting - with a payload of the same order - they had to reduce their ambitions in order to comply with flight regulations for this sort of machine. The model will now be a 25 kg one and the demonstrator should be ready and flying within a year. What could be its concrete applications? Monitoring of sensitive sites, events or buildings/bridges, etc. Hence the clear and keen interest shown by numerous industrialists.