Navigation path

Themes
Agriculture & food
Energy
Environment
ERA-NET
Health & life sciences
Human resources & mobility
Industrial research
Information society
Innovation
International cooperation
Nanotechnology
Pure sciences
Research infrastructures
Research policy
Science & business
Science in society
Security
SMEs
Social sciences and humanities
Space
Special Collections
Transport

Countries
Countries
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Botswana
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Finland
  France
  Gambia
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece
  Hungary
  Iceland
  India
  Indonesia
  Ireland
  Israel
  Italy
  Japan
  Kazakhstan
  Kenya
  Korea
  Latvia
  Lichtenstein
  Lithuania
  Luxembourg
  Madagascar
  Malaysia
  Malta
  Mexico
  Montenegro
  Morocco
  Namibia
  Netherlands
  Nigeria
  Norway
  Panama
  Peru
  Poland
  Portugal
  Romania
  Russia
  Senegal
  Serbia
  Slovakia
  Slovenia
  South Africa
  Spain
  Sri Lanka
  Swaziland
  Sweden
  Switzerland
  Taiwan
  Tanzania
  Thailand
  Tunisia
  Turkey
  Uganda
  Ukraine
  United Kingdom
  United States
  Vietnam


   All

Last Update: 23-04-2014  
Related category(ies):
Information society  |  Success stories  |  Transport

 

Countries involved in the project described in the article:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Czech Republic  |  Germany  |  Netherlands  |  Spain
Add to PDF "basket"

Small aircraft, smart safety

Welcome on board of an aircraft unlike any other. It's been designed to increase safety on small planes and the stakes are high. At one incident every 10,000 flight hours in Europe, small aircraft have a much worse safety record than big airliners. So to improve that record, European researchers have taken a challenging flight.

Photo of a small plane while landing
Video in QuickTime format:  ar  de  en  es  fa  fr  it  pt  ru  tr  uk  (22.5 MB)

Above the Austrian Alps flies what seems to be an ordinary small aircraft. But it holds a secret. The flight controls on board are not manual. Instead, electronic signals and computers determine the flight pattern. The pilot basically flies the aircraft via a computer. This is what is universally known as a digital “fly-by-wire” flight system.

The system has greatly contributed to flight safety and has been in use for decades in big airliners and business jets. But until now it has been seen as too heavy, too large and too expensive to be installed in small aircraft. But then scientists in a European Union research project decided to provide a helping hand to the less experienced pilots on-board these tiny planes.

And to achieve that, scientists did some sophisticated research. At an aerospace laboratory in Germany, scientists worked to develop hardware and software able to guarantee a safe, automated and autonomous way of flying. To do it they had to create electronic systems which could autonomously overcome any failures in the aircraft’s functions – without the pilot even noticing that a critical failure had occurred.

The next step was to embed this complex software into a reduced, light hardware adapted to the limited load capacity of small aircraft. But before installing the digital equipment in a real aircraft, a complex simulation had to be done in a unique aeronautical flight facility.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, researchers tested the digital flight control system in a simulator. It was indeed able to ensure the safety of virtual flights in simulated difficult flying conditions without the test pilots actively intervening. The system, researchers say, even automatically keeps the aircraft away from dangerous flight patterns.

Back in Austria, the first test flights of the final prototype were considered a success by the scientists, who are now looking ahead.

Manufacturers of small aircraft see this reinforced safety as an ideal marketing tool to seduce potential new customers. Researchers are now considering how to use the same digital flight control not only for cruising but for a bigger challenge: take-off and landing.

Project details

  • Project acronym:SAFAR
  • Participants:Germany (Coordinator), Austria, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Czech republic
  • FP7 Project N° 213374
  • Total costs: €7 318 273
  • EU contribution: €4 700 000
  • Duration:April 2008 - July 2012

Convert article(s) to PDF

No article selected


loading


Search articles

Notes:
To restrict search results to articles in the Information Centre, i.e. this site, use this search box rather than the one at the top of the page.

After searching, you can expand the results to include the whole Research and Innovation web site, or another section of it, or all Europa, afterwards without searching again.

Please note that new content may take a few days to be indexed by the search engine and therefore to appear in the results.

Print Version
Share this article
See also

Futuris, the European research programme - on Euronews. The video on this page was prepared in collaboration with Euronews for the Futuris programme.

Project web site

Project information on CORDIS

Contacts
Unit A1 - External & internal communication,
Directorate-General for Research & Innovation,
European Commission
Tel : +32 2 298 45 40
  Top   Research Information Center