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Atmospheric turbulence shakes even large and heavy aircraft in their flight path. A novel sensor technology is now able to reduce these vibrations by eighty percent.

Turbulent flights are not just a concern for passengers. Projected turbulence must be avoided and this burdens fuel costs and time schedules. András Gálffy found a solution to the problem as part of his dissertation at TU Wien (Vienna Technical University). He developed sensors that detect turbulence and enable countermeasures on the basis of sophisticated control technology.

Eighty percent stabilization verified

Simulation calculations and unmanned test flights have shown that the stabilizing effect on the flight path amounts to eighty percent. The patent for this method has already been applied for. Tests on manned aircraft will now confirm that the results can be transferred to commercial aviation.

Can be integrated into existing aircraft types

The technology can be integrated into existing aircraft types and will make passing through turbulence possible without severe vibrations. The innovation will be presented at the Aérosalon SIAE in Hall 4, Stand G17, which will be held in Paris from 17 to 23 June 2019.

Sensors measure atmospheric pressure

The sensors are installed in sensor units in front of the aircraft. They measure air pressure and register turbulence, explains Gálffy, now an assistant at the t the Vienna University of Technology. Institut für Automatisierungs- und Regelungstechnik (Institute for Automation and Control Technology) at TU Wien. “Fractions of a second later, when the wings reach this air region, one can already take countermeasures with the help of an intelligent actuator control system developed by us at the institute,” adds Professor Georg Schitter, who heads the  Advanced Mechatronic Systems (AMS) research group. The actuators trigger small, precise oscillatory movements that counteract turbulence. This varies the lift and significantly dampens the aircraft’s vibrations.

Opposite effects that offset each other

Gálffy compares the effect with the noise cancelling of noise-suppressing headphones:

  “Interference from outside which affects the system is reproduced in precisely the reverse order causing it to cancel itself out altogether. The result: a turbulence-free flight.”

The technology is also of great interest for vertical take-off aircraft, where the vertical thrust and the new propulsion controller both operate in the same direction. This results in particularly good damping.

Optimization through flexible wing geometry

Gálffy sees potential in even more dampening in the construction of wings. However, this requires even more navigational intervention options in wing aerodynamics. This is only possible with new aircraft types in which this technology has already been taken into account at the design stage. “If one could not just address wing flaps on a short-term time scale, but could also change the geometry of the wing, our method would be even more effective,” explains Gálffy. He is inspired by the wing construction of birds and aims to achieve his goal with adaptive wings, which he calls Morphing Wings.

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