The University of Southampton

New approach for advanced communications systems for civil aircraft

Published: 21 July 2014

The University of Southampton is part of a research programme that has been awarded £6.4 million to develop lighter, safer, and more fuel efficient aircraft.

The HARNet (Harmonised Antennas, Radios and Networks) strategic research programme has been awarded the funding from the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP).

The project is led by Thales working with industry partner Cobham, who will invest an additional £5.2 million into the research. The programme will be aided and supported by the research of the universities of Southampton and Bradford and Queen Mary University of London.

The partnership will develop the radio techniques and technologies required to produce an Integrated Modular Communications (IMC) system for civil aircraft.

As the IMC is smaller, lighter, and offers more flexible capability, it will mean less equipment will need to be installed on new aircraft, freeing up critical space and reducing fuel burn, noise and CO² emissions. An IMC would also offer higher reliability, safety and security.

The University of Southampton is contributing innovative approaches to data networking for the IMC, which will allow aircraft to seamlessly exchange data with each other and the ground. This will allow the aircraft and their passengers to remain connected to the world, regardless of whether they are parked at an airport, taking off or landing, flying over populated areas, or flying over the ocean. Dr Rob Maunder from Electronics and Computer Science says: “This research draws upon the University's expertise in wireless communication and networking, within Electronics and Computer Science. We are very excited to be involved in this ambitious project - it offers us a fantastic opportunity for extending the reach, impact and profile of our research.”

Peter Hitchcock, Vice President – Avionics, Thales UK, says: “This investment will help bring to fruition the technologies and products that will tackle some of the big issues facing the aviation industry. It will also help retain valuable skills, expertise and technologies within the UK. We welcome this investment from the AGP and look forward to working with industry and academia to advance communications systems for civil aircraft.”

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