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Grow the UK’s capabilities in current and emerging high-value aircraft systems.
We must grow the UK’s capabilities in current and emerging high-value aircraft systems. This is concentrated in landing gear and fuel systems, avionics and flight control and electrical systems. All of these make a vital contribution to operational performance and efficiency of aircraft, which must be continuously improved to meet environmental standards. There are hundreds of specialised companies in the UK delivering these systems, their components and aftermarket services around the world. Expansion of services through digital technologies embedded within systems will enable further aftermarket growth. The R&D ecosystem in the UK offers a unique mix of capabilities for developing technologies including smart connectivity and autonomy for future air vehicles. Greater autonomy in aircraft control will enable a new range of opportunities, from more sustainable fleet growth in the large commercial aircraft market to urban air mobility. System integration will be critical to this. Affordable, secure, safety-critical software development processes and tools will be required, including high-performance modelling capabilities for whole systems and their components. Cybersecurity remains at the core of ATI ambitions to ensure safety and reliability for systems.
The UK must deliver the next generation of aircraft systems technologies that are light, highly efficient and highly reliable to complement upcoming wing and propulsion systems.
Next generation wing structures and UHBR turbofans are driving technology requirements for fuel, landing gear, flight control, ice protection and more electric systems. Technologies need to be demonstrated to TRL6 by 2023 to be ready for market opportunities in the second half of the 2020s. There are significant technical challenges to overcome to increase functionality whilst improving reliability and maintainability, to reduce the cost and time to certify products, and to cut recurring costs. Through-life upgrades will be key to reaping the benefits from new systems. Effective thermal management solutions and harsh environment components and materials will also be vital. The ATI will prioritise projects which demonstrate the integration and installation of new systems and equipment, continuing the replacement of mechanical and hydraulic systems with electric systems, and enhancing health monitoring and prognostics. The adoption of hybrid propulsion systems will introduce new installation and integration challenges. Development of bio and synthetic sustainable and other alternative fuels will drive new challenges in fuel handling and management. On-board electrical power systems will continue to evolve to meet future challenges for secondary power.
The UK must accelerate its leadership in smart connectivity and data systems that enable an integrated digital transport system.
Communications and connectivity are becoming more important in aviation. The continued growth of commercial fleets is increasing airspace congestion. The introduction of new air vehicle markets, such as urban air mobility, will further this trend. Airlines will continue to seek new revenue streams by offering high-speed in-flight cabin connectivity. The introduction of 5G networks will require compatible on-board systems to improve ground-to-air data transfer. In the longer term, aircraft-to-aircraft connections will enable increased communications coverage and redundancy. Greater connectivity for on-board systems with the Internet of Things (IoT) increases the need for highly secure cyber technologies. The ATI will support projects which demonstrate high-performance in-flight cockpit connectivity for aircraft control and information, and cabin connectivity for passengers.
The UK can capitalise on its capabilities to capture new opportunities in the expanding autonomous systems market
Existing commercial aircraft depend on significant automation to ease flight crew workload and maintain safety. Today, pilots instruct automated systems to fulfil tasks that reliably produce the same outputs for given inputs. Future urban air vehicles will depend on autonomy to overcome the shortage of pilots, enhance safety through reducing human error, improve operational efficiency and reduce operating cost. Autonomous systems will have adaptive, artificial intelligence capabilities that permit responses within specific boundaries that are not pre-programmed nor defined in the design. The ATI will lead the advancement of autonomy in urban air mobility, paving the way for wider adoption of autonomy in larger commercial air vehicles, enhancing safety and efficiency.