Aviation research at Masdar Institute takes flight

More than a century ago, the Wright Brothers achieved the first successful flight with an aircraft weighing 750 pounds, including the pilot and motor. That’s quite a different proposition from the A380 superjumbos of today which carry hundreds of passengers and weigh in at over 570 tonnes.

The pace of innovation in the aviation sector has hardly let up in the 112 years since the Wright Brothers’ landmark moment. The search for increased efficiency and greater income – the global airline industry’s revenues have doubled over the past decade, according to the International Air Transport Association – has also become critical for the UAE, which has emerged as one of the world’s leading airline hubs.

Researchers at the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi are working to help find those efficiencies by testing airplane parts currently being made in the UAE.


Yusra Abdulrahman, 25, a graduate student from Dubai, is part of the team working on the development of a non-destructive testing and thermal imaging system in collaboration with Strata, the Al Ain-based aerostructure manufacturer.

The Masdar Institute researchers are working on a model which tests carbon fibre and polymer parts supplied by Strata.

“We’re not trying to create something new, but rather innovate the existing [testing] techniques,” she says.

The Masdar Institute system takes two to three minutes to test structures, a significant difference from the current models on the market that take hours, according to Ms Abdulrahman. An additional improvement is the benefit of automation requiring less manpower.

Improvements to this type of system are only being studied in three countries: the United States, Japan and now the UAE. Ms Abdulrahman said that as a result, this will make the UAE more competitive in the industry. “And this will strengthen our companies’ global competitiveness,” she says. “High-end tech companies in Abu Dhabi are currently available across many sectors such as aerospace and can achieve a sustainable manufacturing growth.”

Mohammed Omar, the founding chair of the department of engineering systems and management at the institute, says that the complexity of airplane structures was becoming more intricate, requiring more advanced systems for testing parts.

Aircraft materials must be lightweight yet sturdy. “And that’s our goal: to ensure that everything that’s being fabricated is up to standards and is basically safe to use in the building of airplanes,” he says.

The professor adds that not only was it important to be cost-conscious, but it was imperative to have a knowledge transfer within communities. “It’s important that we’re not just building systems without the support behind it,” Mr Omar says. For Ms Abdulrahman, “innovation isn’t an option any more, it’s a necessity. The mind has to be innovative”.

UAE INNOVATION WEEK EVENTS – NOVEMBER 26

Strategy and Innovation Forum, Chamber of Commerce, Ras Al Khaimah

Green Leadership conference, Dubai

Department of Finance: Smart financial planning programme, Dubai

Dubai Statistics Center: creativity and innovation cinema, Dubai

in5 talk: Scaling up – why a few companies make it and the rest don’t, Dubai

in5 competition: IBM challenge to advance Internet of Things/Smart City solutions, Dubai

Dubai Financial Market: projects and overview talk, Dubai

Ministry of Energy: Energy Gate initiative, Abu Dhabi

Dewa: innovation conference, Dubai

Securities & Commdities Authority: innovative research awards

For more information visit: www.uaeinnovates.gov.ae/events

lgraves@thenational.ae

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