The EU-funded HIRF-SE ('High intensity radiated field synthetic environment') project is currently investigating ways to cut the risk to aircraft of electromagnetic interference. The project partners are considering ways to improve computer-based modelling that can spot interference from natural or synthetic electromagnetic sources which may be located on or off board. HIRF-SE is funded under the Seventh Framework Programme to the tune of EUR 17.8 million.
HIRF-SE seeks to provide the aeronautics industry with a framework that can be applied during the development phase, which can effectively identify electromagnetic sources at an early stage of the design process. The project partners also want to reduce the number of certification/qualification tests needed on aircraft. HIRF-SE will offer validated and integrated solutions in order to model, simulate numerically and test aircraft for electromagnetic sources, as well as develop an integrated approach with an open and evolutionary architecture, the researchers said.
'If potential risks can be identified in the early stages of their design that will improve safety and save manufacturers significant amounts of time and money,' explained Professor Andrew Marvin, deputy head of the Department of Electronics at the University of York in the UK, a partner in the project. The University of York was awarded a EUR 1 million grant for its work in the HIRF-SE project. The York researchers will focus on helping aerospace companies manufacture safer aircraft.
Electronic systems are the norm du jour for aircraft flying our skies. Problems may arise when the systems disrupt each other or sustain interference from high-powered radar, electronic communication or lightning. Specialists are currently testing new aircraft for their vulnerability to electromagnetic interference; however, the testing usually comes at a relatively late stage of the production process, experts say.
The HIRF-SE project targets the identification of any potential problems sooner rather than later. This can be possible via better computer-based modelling programmes, the researchers explain.
'If a modern aircraft experiences interference with its electronic systems it can have very serious consequences indeed, which is why it is essential that they are thoroughly tested before they fly,' Professor Marvin underlined. 'This testing process and rectifying any problems that are discovered can prove very costly indeed.'
The HIRF-SE team anticipates that the results obtained in the study will help the industry deal with the increased use of composite material and structures. The project will also help simulate a widespread typology and number of electromagnetic (both internal and external) interference sources, and provide a developed methodology and tool (complying with certification bodies) that would be recognised by the civil aviation community.
The 48-month project is being coordinated by Alenia Aeronautica SpA (Italy). Also participating in HIRF-SE are scientists, academic and industrial engineers including Evektor Spol. sro (Czech Republic), Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH (Germany), Hellenic Aerospace Industry SA (Greece), EADS – Construcciones Aeronauticas SA (Spain), Oktal Synthetic Environment (France) and Totalforsvarets Forskninginstitut (Sweden).