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A digital revolution in aeronautics

Two UTC under­grad­u­ates, Arthur Bouchaud and Clé­ment Cheva­lier, were award­ed 5th Prize in the ‘Air & Cosmos’/Usaire com­pe­ti­tion, Nov. 25, 2016 for their work in aero­nau­ti­cal inno­va­tions made pos­si­ble by using dig­i­tal appli­ca­tions. Every year this event, spon­sored by major Euro­pean and Amer­i­can pri­vate sec­tor and mil­i­tary com­pa­nies reward the work of future engi­neers about some key prob­lems that remain in this field. Year 2015 had as its cen­tral theme the envi­ron­ment while 2016 was devot­ed to dig­i­tal­iza­tion of the air­craft industries. 

This A&C/Usaire Award is seen as an encour­age­ment for young engi­neers who already have a well6engrained aero­nau­ti­cal voca­tion. Arthur Bouchaud – cur­rent­ly doing a dou­ble degree course between UTC/Cranfield Uni­ver­si­ty, Eng­land – recalls “while in my first year at UTC, I took part in a Cau­dron C430* recon­struc­tion project with the Cir­cle of Fly­ing Machines asso­ci­a­tion, based at Margny-lès-Com­piègne”. The C.430 goes back to, the 1930s. After a year work­ing with SAFRAN, his class-mate Clé­ment Cheva­lier is now work­ing with THALES. Meet­ing some of the air­craft engine and air­frame mem­bers of the Award Jury served to rein­forced his list of contacts. 

Imagining the future of aeronautics

Our two UTC aero­nau­tics fans gath­ered a huge amount of doc­u­men­ta­tion, addressed numer­ous ques­tions to pro­fes­sion­als and to UTC Prof. Yann Mouli­er-Boutang (a spe­cial­ist of dig­i­tal economies) to try to have a glimpse of the oppor­tu­ni­ties for dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and con­nect­ed objects in these air-space com­pa­nies and for users. Giv­en the scope of the sub­ject mat­ter, they chose to focus on air­craft main­te­nance issues, shar­ing of air­craft among the com­pa­nies and pilot-less air­craft. In order to improve safe­ty mea­sures via pre­ven­tive main­te­nance pro­grammes and to low­er over­all costs, they imag­ined a series of sen­sors that would ensure real-time air­craft in-flight mon­i­tor­ing or a scan­ner device inte­grat­ed to a portable pad PC to check all the com­po­nents involved with­out requir­ing dis­man­tling of units. This con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing of air­craft allows you to envis­age more air­craft shar­ing among com­pa­nies. As Arthur explains “The num­ber of air trans­porta­tion pas­sen­gers is expect­ed to dou­ble up in the com­ing 20–25 years but the oper­a­tors no longer have the finan­cial capac­i­ty to pur­chase new air­craft. What we imag­ined was some­thing on the same line of car-shar­ing and we pro­posed a share sce­nario”. The advent of pilot­less air­craft is also among the hypothe­ses exam­ined. “Tech­ni­cal­ly speak­ing, this is pos­si­ble, but social­ly it is not yet deemed accept­able. We would still have to prove math­e­mat­i­cal­ly that this mode is safer.” asserts our UTC-GM (mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing) stu­dent. The hypoth­e­sis pro­vides a sta­tus report on avail­able tech­nolo­gies and also on the legal and/or human fac­tors that are at play when inno­va­tions arrive. 

/* The Cau­dron C430 Rafale, a two-seat, mono­plane made its maid­en flight on May 22, 1934. Jean Mer­moz and René Fon­ck, famed pilots of their time were trained at the Ecole Cau­dron in the Hauts-de-France. Hun­dreds of civil­ian or mil­i­tary planes were pro­duced by Cau­dron in the last cen­tu­ry but only two mod­els of the C430 Rafale. 

The “Cer­cle” in a col­lab­o­ra­tion with UTC, agreed to rebuild the myth­i­cal C430 and the Laté­coère 28 on which Jean Mer­moz was the first to cross the South Atlantic, May 12, 1930. 

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