Aviation innovations

for the mobility of tomorrow

Clever ideas, great benefits and easy implementation – the winners of the German Aviation Innovation Prize in 2017 scored big on these points. Worth a total of 20,000 euros, the prize should serve as a springboard to establish new products on the market. Germany’s most important representatives of aviation award the prize: the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI), the German Aviation Association (BDL), the digital association Bitkom, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) as well as the P3 Group, a management consultant and engineering firm. Over 50 corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and research facilities entered the competition. The seven expert members of the jury awarded four companies.

A “bouquet” helps save fuel

The aviation industry supplier Premium AEROTEC, based in Augsburg, impressed the jury with a structural component modeled on natural shapes: a bracket for the rear-door frame area in the Airbus A350 XWB. It is the first bionic-inspired structural component for aircrafts that has entered into series production. The bracket is 3D-printed in titanium, which makes the curved structure possible and saves material. The organic shape makes it 64 percent lighter than traditional brackets, thereby reducing kerosene consumption and CO2 emissions. Calculated over a period of 30 years, a global A350 fleet can therefore save 875 tons of carbon dioxide.

“Bouquet” – that’s what Premium AEROTEC calls the bracket, whose shape resembles a living structure. A traditional component is shown to its left.

More than just a drone

The Darmstadt-based company Wingcopter won the innovation award for its crossover between an unmanned aerial vehicle drone and fixed-wing aircraft. Wingcopter 178’s special feature is its four rotors, which can tilt 90 degrees to let it take off and land vertically anywhere. It can fly for two hours, cover a range of 100 kilometers and reach a top speed of 130 kilometers per hour – much more than traditional drones. The Wingcopter’s aerodynamic design and the tilt rotors help it remain stable in the air even in difficult weather conditions. As a result, it is the perfect helper for taking measurements or carrying out inspections and transport operations.

The Wingcopter is already used for a wide range of applications. It inspects high-voltage cables for the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, maps out the Indonesian rainforest for the Zoological Society in London and transports medication throughout Tanzania on behalf of the German development agency giz.

Printed electrics

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus entered the competition with “printed electrics”: These printed electrical connections of conductive ink could revolutionize aircraft power supplies. Many other fields already use the method for a wide variety of electronic components, such as light-emitting diodes, sensors or display systems. A Hamburg-based Airbus team optimized it for aviation. Using an inkjet printer, silver-plated conductive ink is printed onto plastic film and then covered with a protective coating. The advantages in comparison to thick cable bundles: less weight, lower costs, more flexible cabin design. The printed conductors can be used for various cabin systems, such as lighting, air conditioning or data transmission.

Light against jetlag

A warm red while taking off at night, a cool blue before the landing: jetlite takes on jetlag with a specially developed cabin light. The Hamburg-based start-up developed an algorithm that controls cabin lighting on long-haul flights. It takes into account flight times, flight duration and direction, time zones, daylight as well as the seasons at both the point of departure and the destination. Different light scenarios regulate the release of the sleeping hormone melatonin to ensure a good night’s sleep and support the human circadian rhythm. The holistic concept also considers individual nutritional needs for inflight and airport catering. An app provides suggestions for sleep phases, lighting and nutrition before and after the flight – adapted to the individual passenger’s internal clock.

Text by Gesine Oltmanns
Photos: Hesse creates knowledge/Steffen Böttcher (article photo), Premium AEROTEC, Wingcopter