A wing-skin that harvests natural vibrations to power in-flight systems, drones that lead birds to a safe haven “birdport”, and a games console-inspired infra-red system that detects potential obstacles when taxiing, are among the ideas from university students shortlisted by Airbus in its Fly Your Ideas contest, with the five finalists now vying for the €30,000 jackpot.
These pioneering ideas have already seen off competition from over 500 entries in Airbus’ biennial global student challenge. Airbus created Fly Your Ideas, in partnership with UNESCO, to inspire the next generation of innovators by giving them the chance to experience the exciting opportunities that the aviation industry has to offer.
Diversity is a key driver of innovation and performance and this year’s finalists represent the most diverse line-up in the competition’s history, comprising of eight nationalities from nine universities, with a mix of engineering and non-engineering backgrounds and a higher percentage of female students than ever before.
Responding to key issues in aviation, the ideas had to cover one of six challenges identified by Airbus to provide sustainable future solutions where growth, efficiency and people will be at the heart of a thriving aviation industry.
The five finalist teams – from Brazil, China, Japan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – now travel to Hamburg, Germany, to make their case for the top prize to Airbus and industry experts on 27th May; the runners-up will share €15,000.
In contention are:
‘Good vibrations’ energy-harvesting skin – Team ‘MULTIFUN’, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
MULTIFUN is all about good vibrations. The team’s idea sees plane wings dressed in a composite skin that harvests energy from natural vibrations or flex in the wings. Piezoelectric fibres gather electrical charges from even the smallest movements during flight, storing the energy generated in battery panels integrated in the fuselage and using it to power auxiliary in-flight systems, such as lighting and entertainment systems. This reduces the energy footprint of aircraft during flight and could even replace the entire power source for ground operations.
Drone-guided ‘birdport’ – Team ‘BIRDPORT’, The University of Tokyo, Japan
BIRDPORT proposes deploying a flock of drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to guide birds from airports to a comfortable habitat nearby. The drones use tactics of separation, alignment and cohesion to manipulate flocks and divert them to Birdport, where birdsong and decoys are used to create a natural and safe habitat for birds in the area. The idea is designed to reduce bird strikes to aircraft significantly and to enhance aircraft availability.
Game console-inspired infra-red guidance system – Team AFT-BURNER-REVERSER, Northwestern Polytechnical University, China
AFT-BURNER-REVERSER has applied motion-sensing technology from a games console to an aircraft guidance system for use when taxiing. The model uses infra-red and visual information to warn the pilot and ground crew of high-risk obstacles. This is designed to reduce the turnaround time of aircraft between flights and the cost of damage, saving airlines millions per year.
Faster trolley trash – Team RETROLLEY, University of São Paulo, Brazil
RETROLLEY has tackled the issue of reducing waste in-flight and cutting down the time taken to collect and sort rubbish post-flight, speeding up airline operations particularly on short-haul carriers. The team’s bespoke trolley is designed to intelligently sort rubbish and recycling by minimising the volume of foils, paper and plastic and collecting residual fluid. In doing so, the weight of galley equipment can be reduced by up to 30kg reducing fuel consumption and offering more space in-flight for refreshments.
Wireless and greener ground operations – Team BOLLEBOOS, City University London, UK
BOLLEBOOS has put forward its pioneering WEGO system that picks up energy during taxiing. Transmitter sections on the ground, located just underneath the aircraft in the tarmac, transfer electrical power inductively to a receiver placed between the nose-wheels. This provides a sustainable energy source to power ground operations, reducing carbon emissions by half.
Charles Champion, Airbus Executive Vice President Engineering, says: “I congratulate the five teams for reaching the final of our Fly Your Ideas challenge. The competition as always has been incredibly tough and they can all be very proud to have got this far. What their ideas show us is that the next generation can bring fresh thinking to our industry and help shape the future of flight. That’s what Airbus Fly Your Ideas is all about.”
Flavia Schlegel, Assistant Director-General of the Natural Sciences Sector, UNESCO, says: “We are proud to partner with Airbus on Fly Your Ideas. With diversity key to driving innovation, the competition gives students, both male and female, from all different backgrounds and based all over the world, the opportunity to offer their individual expertise and to experience the future of the aviation industry. We wish all the finalists good luck in the final round of the competition.”
The winning team will be announced at a ceremony in Hamburg on 27 May.
Fly Your Ideas is part of The Future by Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer’s vision of sustainable air travel in 2050.