University sets up trailblazing flight test in Preston

Academics showcase the nano-material that could be used in aircraft
Academics showcase the nano-material that could be used in aircraft
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A pioneering project between two universities has led to the world’s first successful aeronautic flight test - in Preston.

The city-based University of Central Lancashire is working on a research initiative, between the University of Central Lancashire’s Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC), and The University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute which has just seen the first flight of a UAV part-constructed with graphene.

This new nano-material is the thinnest material on Earth, 200 times stronger than steel, fire resistant and a powerful insulator and, among its many uses, could be of major benefit to the aviation industry.

A test flight was carried out in Preston to trial graphene on the wing of a UAV to test its robustness, aerodynamic properties and see how it might be integrated into the manufacturing process.

Billy Beggs, UCLan’s engineering innovation Manager, said: “This demonstration was a world first and our initial flight tests have been very encouraging.”

He added: “Graphene has huge potential for aerospace; it is incredibly strong, yet lightweight and flexible at the same time.

“Through our partnership with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester, and alongside a number of Lancashire-based SMEs, we aim to develop a route map that enables graphene to play a key role in the future development of the aviation industry.”

Billy said: “ “The phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is sometimes overused but this is a real and fantastic example of expertise within the public and private sectors working together for the long term benefit of our local, regional and national economies.”

James Baker, graphene business director at the National Graphene Institute added: “This is the first demonstration of a UAV containing graphene components, in this case a graphene coated wing.

“The aim is to investigate the potential effects of graphene in drag reduction, thermal management and ultimately the ability to achieve lightning strike protection for aerospace and other related opportunities.

“Working with a number of universities and SME’s we aim to provide further demonstrations and enhance engagement between academia and the supply chain to achieve the goals of commercialising graphene applications.”