Etihad Airways has become the first airline to join the £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) consortium, which is due to open next year at Cranfield University.
Researchers attached to DARTeC are working on a number of projects “to reimagine what airports and airlines look like post-Covid-19, and [are] driving forward innovations in digital airspace and airport infrastructure that will help the UK reach its target of net zero carbon emissions”.
The consortium currently includes Aveillant, Blue Bear Systems Research, Boeing, BOXARR, the Connected Places Catapult, Cranfield University, Inmarsat, Iata, the IVHM Centre, Saab, the Satellite Applications Catapult and Thales. It has also received co-investment support from Research England.
Specific topics Etihad and DARTeC will collaborate on will include: “Reducing aircraft emissions both in the air and on the ground; creating safe, secure and efficient airspace; better understanding of whole-life sustainability impacts of aircraft; enhancing the passenger experience; and increasing the reliability and availability of aircraft.”
Professor Graham Braithwaite, project lead and director of transport systems at Cranfield, said: “We are delighted to welcome Etihad to the DARTeC project, with construction of our building now nearing completion at Cranfield’s global research airport.
“As an innovative airline focused on the future challenges of safety, efficiency and sustainability, there is much overlap between Etihad’s aims and the research themes of DARTeC. We look forward to working together to deliver the innovation required to enable the industry to ‘build back better’ from Covid-19.”
Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “Etihad has long been known as a leader for innovation in aviation and our role in the consortium reinforces our commitment to driving the industry forward through technology, and corporation.
“As an innovative, future-focused carrier, membership of DARTeC is a natural fit for Etihad, providing a unique opportunity to expand exploration of key topics across sustainability, safety and passenger experience with industry leading partners.
“With this new partnership we hope to bring the best ideas, approaches and projects to Etihad to ultimately ensure that our operations are cutting edge and that our guests have the best possible journey.”
DARTeC aims to address a number of research challenges facing the aviation industry, including the integration of drones into civilian airspace; increasing the efficiency of airports through technological advances; creating safe, secure shared airspace through secure data communication infrastructures; and increasing the reliability and availability of aircraft utilising self-sensing/aware and self-healing/repair technologies.
The research and development environment at the university’s licensed airport will include the UK’s first digital air traffic control tower and “next-generation radar technologies”.