DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF HIGH-LIFT SYSTEMS
High-lift systems play a critical role in the flight of modern aircraft. These hydraulic systems extend surfaces on the leading and trailing edges of a plane’s wings to provide lift during take-off and drag during landing. While the architecture for high-lift systems has not undergone a significant change in several decades, UTC Aerospace Systems is developing an innovative next-generation high-lift system designed to provide operators with significant benefits in terms of improved performance, reduced weight and cost.
Recently, the company’s Actuation Systems business in Wolverhampton, U.K., began work on a £6.5 million ($8.5 million) next-gen high-lift system project, with half of the funding provided through a grant from the UK Aerospace Research & Technology Programme, delivered by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Innovate UK and the Aerospace Technology Institute. As part of the project, UTC Aerospace Systems plans to deliver systems, components and installation technology concepts for a high-rate/high-production-volume high-lift system by 2022. The technologies should be integrated into an overall wing configuration at TRL/MRL 6.
Our engineers are exploring a distributed architecture for the new system that drives units at each station, rather than a central power unit that drives out all surfaces mechanically synchronized. In this way, pilots could exercise greater precision in operating the system through individual control of the panels, and the transmission shafts required by traditional systems could be eliminated, making our systems easier and cheaper for aircraft manufacturers to install.
The next-generation high-lift system should use fewer parts compared to existing systems, thus reducing aircraft build time, and it should also reduce the loads transferred to the aircraft structure, thus enabling reduced structural component weight, size and corresponding fuel burn. The system itself should also be lightweight thanks to its innovative gearing architecture, and could also be additively manufactured using advanced materials to achieve further weight reductions.
In addition, we are looking to equip the next-generation high-lift system with a smart system of wireless sensors that should allow us to provide electronic torque limitation and provide operators with a predictive health maintenance capability by monitoring the system’s operating condition.
As we develop the next-generation high-lift system, we intend to partner with local small and medium-sized enterprises, Catapult organisations and equipment/component suppliers. To do so, we plan to work with the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership to determine suitable local partners.
The next-generation high-lift system represents an exciting opportunity that we hope will achieve a step-change in the current system technology, while providing operators with significant benefits and stimulating our local economy. We look forward to keeping you updated on its progress.
By: David Chard – Business Development Director, Actuation Systems