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Headlines Published on 06 September 2004

Title Flying the friendly skies, or not?

Urban living has its benefits but city dwellers would not list flight noise as one them. It is a fact of life that the convenience of having airports and helipads close to European cities comes at a price – associated noise pollution. But various EU projects are out to prove that Europe’s aeronautics industry can be both competitive and people friendly.

These complex craft produce high noise levels, but design improvements are on the way © Image: Gutierrez, Paris Airshow 2003
These complex craft produce high noise levels, but design improvements are on the way
© Image: Gutierrez, Paris Airshow 2003
The growth in air traffic might mean cheaper flights and better communications between nations worldwide but with it comes increased pollution – both atmospheric and noise-related. Pressure is on policy-makers and aeronautics stakeholders to lower the pollution but at the same time raise efficiency and market competitiveness.

“[With] EU funding and in co-operation with ACARE (the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe), Europe’s key aircraft manufacturers, research institutes, universities and SMEs are working together to create cheaper, cleaner and quieter aircraft,” commented Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin in a June statement about European aerospace endeavours under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for research.

He introduced a number of projects leading the way in this dual push to have both environmentally friendly and competitive skyways. These included the Silence(r) project, which is testing new technologies to reduce aircraft noise by up to six decibels by 2008, as well as the Tango, Awiater and EEFAE projects which, in their own way, are all working towards improving aircraft efficiency. Mr Busquin also mentioned a project called Friendcopter which is concentrating on helicopter noise, in particular. 

Slicing noise levels
The consortium of researchers behind Friendcopter (Integration of technologies in support of a passenger and environmentally friendly helicopter) include industry and research centres from across Europe. The project – funded under the ‘Aeronautics and space’ FP6 thematic priority – kicked off in March this year and will run until September 2007.

It is hard to dispute the fact that rotorcraft like helicopters are noisy machines. But they provide essential services, such as rescue operations and law enforcement capabilities. Friendcopter will develop and test a number of measures for reducing the overhead din caused by these gravity-defying machines. But the researchers acknowledge that it will be a tough challenge: both the technical know how required and the psychological aspect of the project – improving public acceptance of helicopters in urban skylines.

They have to come up with guidelines for pilots regarding low-noise flight procedures, develop technology for absorbing noise in engine inlets and outlets, and set up methods for identifying and dampening noise leaks in the cabin and systems. Plans are also underway to control the sound at its source by reducing rotor noise and vibration along the blade surface, which should also help with fuel consumption. To try out all these new developments, the team are also planning to build a Mach-scale model rotor for conducting wind tunnel tests.      

Source:  EC sources

Research Contacts page

More information:

  • FP6 major projects library
  • Aeronautics research (EU)
  • EU research for cheaper, greener, quieter aircraft (press release, 22 June 2004)
  • EU project addresses calls for quieter and greener travel (CORDIS 23 June 2004)

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