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New aircraft control concepts

Researchers have developed and tested new designs for the actuators used in aircraft control systems. The new electronic-based systems are lighter and require less maintenance than existing technologies.

Actuators are the part of the aircraft control system that initiates changes in the position of flaps, rudders and other systems based on the pilot's steering movements. Currently, these systems are often based on hydraulics, which are heavy and need to be serviced regularly.

The EU-funded 'Electric motor and sensor design and manufacture' (EMAS) project assessed, implemented and validated emerging electrical actuation technologies for high-speed, severe-environment aerospace applications. With a research team drawn from leading institutes and manufacturers from several countries, the project assessed various induction motor (IM) and permanent magnet motor (PMM) designs. They then selected the most promising candidates for further industrial development.

Study results showed that PMM is the most favourable current option.

Although the optimum IM configuration presents advantages in terms of lower breaking torque and short-circuit currents, it is larger and heavier than the PMM for the same thermal evacuation ratio.

In addition to developing the prototype manufacturing process, EMAS' other work involved updates to smart electronic sensor and motor platforms for flight control systems. These include new design and simulation software, specialised experimental test benches, magnetic and insulation materials, and high-speed sensor technologies.

The innovative technologies pioneered during EMAS fit in with the modular concept of the next generation of aircraft. These will incorporate more electrics into their systems and promise considerable benefits over current solutions, with greater efficiency and reliability at lower running costs.

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