Coachlines - November 2021

23.11.21 Steward David Manchester

Cranfield University: A tour at the forefront of research

Prof Iain Gray with Master Sarah Sillars OBE

It was a bright and blustery autumn day when The Master and 25 Coachmakers arrived at The Aerospace Integration Research Centre, (AIRC), Bedford. We were welcomed by Professor Iain Gray – Director of Aerospace, School of Aerospace, Transport & Manufacturing and Professor Dame Helen Atkinson, Pro-Vice Chancellor, School of Aerospace, Transport & Manufacturing who both gave an introductory talk. We were then split into two groups – Vulcan were designated for aerospace facilities and Vanquish were shown the automotive/motorsport facilities.

Group Vulcan started at the Autonomy Lab with a presentation and video on the latest applications of drones in the aerospace arena by Dmitry Ignatyev, we then proceeded to the Open Lab which housed an actual Airbus wing, and the use of robotics in aeroplane maintenance was explained by Ellis Haddow. Next stop was the Rolls-Royce Future Flight Simulator, which is connected to Rolls-Royce and was showcased by Wojciech Korek.

We then had a short walk to DARTeC (Digital Aviation Research Technology Centre) a £67 million world leading facility next to Cranfield’s Airport, which opened in July 2021 to make the UK a global leader in sustainable digital aviation.

Both groups then returned to the AIRC for a very welcome lunch. Group Vanquish then departed on the aerospace tour, while Group Vulcan were taken through the automotive/motorsport facilities by Jon Horsley, Transport Systems Development Manager, School of Aerospace, Transport & Manufacturing. We started off viewing a Force India Formula One car from the 2017 season, this was followed by a visit to the Cranfield Impact Centre which is approved by The FIA and the Vehicle Certification Agency and tests the nose cones for the majority of Formula One cars in competition today, along with sled deceleration testing of structures and dummies. Finally, we visited the Intelligent Propulsion & Emissions Laboratory which houses three separate engine test cells used for monitoring emissions and power output of combustion engines.

Prof Dame Helen Atkinson with The Master

Both groups then reconvened in the ARIC for some interesting presentations highlighting the future of hydrogen in transport from Jon Horsley, Bobby Sethi and Howard Smith. Iain Gray then summarised the Coachmakers’ visit and the Master responded thanking everyone involved at Cranfield for a truly interesting and enjoyable day at Cranfield University.

Long standing readers of Coachlines may remember the articles written by PM Martin Payne in December 2001, July 2003 and May 2004 on hydrogen powered fuel cell driven vehicles. It is interesting to think that the Coachmakers were well ahead of the curve in discussing the importance of hydrogen in transport. If anyone would like to read these articles, please contact PM Martin on