Stories of Aerospace Engineering

Read interviews and stories of researchers and students at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, and discover the scientific questions on which they work and the solutions they present.

New aerospace MOOC has launched

After the success of its first MOOC (massive open online course), the TU Delft Faculty of Aerospace is preparing to launch a brand new one. Introduction to Aerospace Structures and Materials , a seven week interactive course, went live on 28 August 2018. Making quality education accessible The first TU Delft aerospace MOOC, Introduction to Aeronautical Engineering , went online in 2014. It was based on an existing in-house course that Assistant Professor Mark Voskuijl helped to create. “Originally, the vision was ‘we want to educate the world’, which is a bit of a bold statement,” he said. “But the general idea is that everybody should have access to high quality education, and with MOOCs you can provide that on an introductory level.” MOOCs, by definition, are online courses that are open to anyone at no cost. The process of creating a MOOC is quite different from an in-person course. There is a lot of up-front development work, according to Voskuijl, but once it’s done the material can be used for a long time. “You don’t have a 90-minute lecture, you have to create short pieces of video followed by exercise material,” he said. “And we get thousands of students through the course which makes communicating difficult. We develop a lot of interactive exercises so they can check whether or not they have mastered the material.” As for the quality of the faculty’s first MOOC, Voskuijl thinks it’s quite good. “In some ways the videos are much better than a traditional lecture because you really thought about it well in the preparation and you have all of the information condensed in a good way,” he said. In fact, he now uses some of the videos from the MOOC in his in-house course to include things like interviews with pilots or tours inside an aircraft, which you can’t do in a live lecture. Broad reach Since its inception, more than 60,000 people have registered for Introduction to Aeronautical Engineering. Although not all of them complete it, that number certainly reflects a high level of interest and the potential reach of courses like this one. Lecturers can access an interactive map during the course to see where participants are located. And Voskuijl noted that some students in places like India actually meet up and sit together during the MOOC. “It’s really all over the world. I once went to a scientific conference and someone from MIT came up to me saying he knew me,” said Voskuijl. “I was quite surprised that he took my course. He was a professor in a slightly different field, but needed to know a bit more about aeronautical engineering.” Voskuijl also noted that an increasing number of international master’s track students have taken the course prior to coming to Delft. “It’s good for them to see our style of teaching and how we do things, because it can be quite different from other countries.” A new MOOC with a long history The second MOOC, which focuses on how aircraft and spacecraft are designed and manufactured, started on 28 August. According to Associate Professor Gillian Saunders-Smits, one of the course creators, it fills a gap in the online course offerings for the Faculty of Aerospace. She noted that about five years ago, the Aerospace Structures and Materials department started a pilot developing online master’s courses. “But we always felt that there was something missing, the introductory step,” she said. “Plus we really liked the idea of making a MOOC, the fact that you can share your passion for aerospace structures and materials with anyone, no matter where in the world they are based or what their previous education is.” The origin of the course itself dates back much further than five years. Introduction to Aerospace Structures and Materials, one of the oldest courses at the Faculty of Aerospace, was introduced in 1945 when the first professor in aerospace structures was appointed at TU Delft. The content of the course has obviously evolved over the years and is about the meat and bones of the aircraft, as Saunders-Smits describes it. “We really feel that it is should be sort of a showcase of everything we do here at aerospace with structures and materials,” she said. “We want to explain why airplanes work and why they break, and safety is also a part of it.” Making online learning engaging Giving MOOC participants a conceptual understanding and a foundation for the topic is important to the course creators. And there are many differences between learning in person and online. “The most important one I think is to ensure you keep the attention of the participants,” said Saunders-Smits. “You make sure that the videos are engaging and varied. We don’t want just talking heads or voiceover PowerPoints. We try and intermix many different things like movies, animations, and activities that are different all the time.” There will also be some unique learning approaches used during this online course. Saunders-Smits explained that they will include a variety of experiments that anyone can do individually using materials they already have at home. “This will help them have a better idea of what we’re talking about,” she said. “They can not only see it, but they can have something tangible to learn from.” In addition, students will be asked to identify their favourite aircraft or spacecraft, and weekly assignments during the course will be centered around that as much as possible. Participants will have to think up new design options or explain why or how a certain design issue can be solved, which will help them understand more about their favourite aircraft for spacecraft. Enrollment opportunity Although the content of Introduction to Aerospace Structures and Materials will be available for many years to come, the first offering is unique as it allows for more interaction between participants and instructors. And with the start date approaching, enrollment activity has been very encouraging. “Since registration opened in February there has been a steady increase and we have about 4000 so far,” said Saunders-Smits. “That’s more than I’ve taught in 10 years together here at aerospace!” Although this is only the second MOOC from the Faculty of Aerospace, there are many more paid courses available for both course credit and professional development. Click here for or more information on the entire portfolio of online learning opportunities at TU Delft.

A summer of space

This summer, space experts and professionals from across the globe will be gathering in the Netherlands for the 31 st annual International Space University (ISU) Space Studies Programme (SSP). The Netherlands Space Office, in collaboration with TU Delft, Leiden University and the European Space Agency, will be hosting this prestigious event from 25 June to 24 August. A one of a kind programme Founded in 1988, the Space Studies Program (SSP) is a nine-week graduate level professional development programme held in a different country each year. This year the programme will take place at different locations across the Netherlands, with a significant portion being held at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. The interdisciplinary curriculum covers both technical and non-technical space related fields, including policy and law, business and management, engineering, physical sciences and space applications. Around 140 participants, the largest group to date, are expected to attend and will be housed on campus at TU Delft. “Most of the teaching and project work during the first weeks will take place here at the faculty,” said Ineke Boneschansker, communications manager for the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and a member of the local organising committee. “So people who work here or study here and are around during the summer will get to experience the energy that it brings.” Learning from a wide range of experts The SSU programme is intensive and gives participants a broad experience including various lectures, group projects and visits to industry. According to Boneschansker, about 225 lecturers are brought in from all over the world. “These are really interesting people,” she said. “They are astronauts from NASA, space entrepreneurs, artists, science fiction writers, film makers and directors, but also doctors and space law people. There are all these disciplines that we don’t have in house and they will all be here teaching. I think that’s fantastic.” One of those lecturers is TU Delft’s own Dr. Daphne Stam, Associate Professor of Planetary Sciences. She said it is an honour to be invited to give a core lecture about solar system planets and exoplanets and it’s also a benefit to the faculty. “The space department at aerospace has been growing during the last years, partly because of the increased interest in space due to commercial companies, for example Elon Musk launching his Tesla into space,” she said. “We already have quite a good reputation internationally, but I think by hosting this we put ourselves on the map.” She also noted that this event is helping to build and strengthen collaborations, especially with the astronomers in Leiden. Something for everyone Luckily, it’s not just SSP participants who get to benefit from the summer programme. Local organisers have also launched the Sizzling Summer of Space with numerous activities all open to the public. Events for space enthusiasts of all ages will be taking place in the cities of Delft, Leiden, The Hague and Noordwijk. “I know that people are busy and it’s a summer holiday period, but this is going to be really special and it’s worth it,” said Boneschansker. And there really is something for everyone. Activities include exhibits throughout the summer at the Delft central library entitled The Afterlife of Satellites and Food for Mars. On 26 June, former NASA astronaut Jeff Hoffman will give a lecture about his five space missions, including his work to repair the Hubble space telescope. The Science Centre will host an event on 30 June for Asteroid Day, a day organised to raise awareness about asteroids. And local film house Lumen is hosting the Unlimited Space Film Festival with screenings such as the documentary Orphans of Apollo on 12 July, introduced by the director Michael Potter. You can also visit the Science Café on 5 July at the central library in The Hague, where three scientists will give short, but inspiring lectures sharing the latest insights into their fields. And on 10 July, Pete Worden of Breakthrough Initiatives will be giving a lecture about the Starships project. And of particular interest is a unique robot building competition. As part of their coursework, SSP participants will be building and programming Lego robot landers. Students from local schools are also taking on the challenge and the adults and youngsters will compete against each other at the grand finale on 14 July, with astronaut Andre Kuipers in attendance. These are just a few of the many upcoming events, but for a detailed schedule and full descriptions click here . An opportunity not to be missed It is indeed a unique opportunity for the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and the local community to be involved with both the SSP and the Sizzling Summer of Space. “It will make the faculty visible as an essential partner in the Dutch space sector,” said Boneschansker, “and it will make us visible to the international space world.” But it is also a chance to show what the aerospace faculty does to the general public. With that in mind, Boneschansker thinks everyone should try and take part. “This is so big we will probably never do it again at the faculty and it would be a shame if people don’t benefit from it,” she said. “Try to join the public events and take your family. Support your colleagues who are a part of this and be visible.”

Women changing the game in aerospace

Despite the fact that more and more women are pursuing careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the gender gap is still significant. The good news is that at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, the number of women has consistently increased over the last years. But as of 2016, women still represented just 13 percent of students (bachelor’s and master’s), 20 percent of PhD candidates and 13 percent of academic staff. Those numbers reflect the paradigm of the past, but what does the future look like? Meet three women of the aerospace faculty, game changers who have ignored the paradigm and are inspiring not just other women, but current and future generations of aerospace engineers. Dr. Sofia Teixeira de Freitas Assistant Professor Dr. Sofia Teixeira de Freitas took an unconventional path to her career in aerospace. After completing a master’s degree in civil engineering in her native Portugal, she worked in the construction industry for two years. “In the first year of practice I was already missing the challenge of learning and exploring new fields so I decided to do a PhD.” That desire to learn brought Teixeira de Freitas to Delft to where she earned a PhD in civil engineering in 2012. With research focused on bridges, after her PhD she wanted to explore new structures. “I thought, why not try something that is even more challenging,” she recalled. So she decided to apply for a postdoctoral position in aerospace, trying to apply her previous knowledge and expertise on bonded structures in aircraft. “I thought, they are the pioneers in bonded structures so why not try it. I think it was the sake of the challenge that drove me to change.” Taking that leap resulted in good things for Teixeira de Freitas. In 2014, she received the prestigious Delft Technology Fellowship, which awards tenure-track positions to outstanding female academic researchers. As a fellow, she has had the unique opportunity to establish her own research group. And in 2015, she was also the recipient of a Veni grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Teixeira de Freitas is using her position to pursue research interests in the understanding of the failure mechanisms and degradation of adhesively bonded structures, using the principles of structural mechanics. Although she acknowledges that aerospace is a male-dominated field, especially in higher level positions, Teixeira de Freitas believes things are changing. With regards to her fellowship and her Veni grant, she said, “All these initiatives do contribute enormously to pushing females to a higher level. I’m enjoying that for the moment and I think we are heading in the right direction.” Looking to the future, Teixeira de Freitas thinks there need to be more female teachers and professors. “Delivering knowledge to students, showing that there are females in scientific and engineering careers, will be a model for girls who are currently in secondary school and thinking about university,” she said. “You can look at women who are successful, who are passionate about their jobs in STEM. Having those role models I think is one of the most important things.” Dr. Irene Fernandez Villegas Dr. Irene Fernandez Villegas always liked science. “I was really interested in chemistry because it was fun just to mess around with things and I always loved math,” she said. “When I finally understood it, I also really liked physics. I’ve always been a nerd!” Early on she also realised she excelled most under pressure so she opted to study aerospace, which she saw as the most challenging degree. “I think I was raised to believe that you could do anything you wanted. I was encouraged from the beginning.” During her studies at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Fernandez Villegas noted that only around 10% of students and almost no teachers were female. “But I never felt that people looked down on me or that I couldn’t do things because I was a woman,” she said. “I never felt treated less, but I was always getting very good grades so that helps.” After completing her studies, Fernandez Villegas worked for Spain’s National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), where she focused on materials. While working at INTA, she also earned a PhD in aerospace engineering from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. In 2008 she came to TU Delft as a researcher and became an assistant professor four years later, where she now works on welding processes for composites. During the last year, thanks to her research and her self-described stubbornness, some game changing things have happened for Fernandez Villegas. When she started at TU Delft ten years ago she began working on a process called ultrasonic welding. She saw the potential so she went to Airbus and told them about her results. “They said no, we are never going to use that process because we don’t believe in it. I said fine, I will prove you wrong.” Last year Airbus brought a list of the welding technologies they want to use for their new aircraft and her technology was right at the top. Fernandez Villegas now manages a project to industrialise that technology. On the idea of changing the paradigm, Fernandez Villegas thinks we don’t necessarily have to encourage girls to pursue careers in science. “I think we have to let them know that they can do whatever they want to, that they can be as smart as or smarter than guys and not necessarily just in science.” But for those women who do want to pursue a career in aerospace, she has some sound advice. “Don’t forget that you are women. This is a male dominated field and I’ve seen a lot of women, including myself, who tried to act like guys. I think we shouldn’t lose the fact that we are women and we are different. That doesn’t mean that we are less.” Foto: Henri Werij Tineke Bakker-van der Veen Tineke Bakker-van der Veen has a photo when she was about two years old sitting with her mother and grandmother next to the airstrip at Schiphol airport watching the planes land and take off. “I think that’s where my interest in the magic of aerospace started,” said the TU Delft aerospace alum (MSc, 2005).That passion never faded and eventually led to her current role as Managing Director of Boeing Benelux & Nordics. The Dutch native credits her parents with inspiring her interest in engineering. “Even from a really young age, they always explained things to me, made it possible to help them with projects,” she said. Though she considered studying mechanical engineering, she chose aerospace because of the focus on innovation and what she describes as “pushing the boundaries on a daily basis.” During her studies, Bakker-van der Veen recalls there wasn’t a female aerospace leader who she could look to as an example. That, in part, inspires her active involvement in mentoring programmes and promoting engineering and technology with young people. “We have to open up the door for future generations of innovators, entrepreneurs and engineers, to be available if they want to reach out, if they want to have a chat,” she said. “But I don’t want to just focus on the gender issue, it’s also about inclusion, that we make every child really enthusiastic about STEM education and show them that STEM is something that’s exciting, that you can have an amazing opportunity and career in aerospace where everyone can be a game changer. By doing that, we also open up the door for the next female leaders.” Before joining Boeing, Bakker-van der Veen worked for well-known companies including Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Fokker. Her roles have ranged from being on the operational shop floor to management positions and she has always felt like part of the team. But she acknowledges the fact that women do stand out in this male-dominated environment. “What was important for me is that I always wanted to be judged on my performance, not my gender,” she said. “Yes, as a woman, you do stick out in a male-dominated field. That has some advantages when it comes to presenting things because you do draw attention. But you’d better perform well because it’s like you have a spotlight on you.” As for inspiring the next generation of aerospace engineers, Bakker-van der Veen believes it’s important to stay true to yourself. “There is no way that you can have a successful career by pretending and acting upon what other people might expect,” she said. She also encourages being open to feedback and finding people you know you can trust who are honest with you. “Try to determine what you can bring to the table and what strengths you have that can really make a difference for the team.”

That rocket is/isn't going to fly

Space is no longer only accessible to governments. Nevertheless, developers of small satellites, such as universities and small businesses, must depend on the unused space in large rockets to launch them. This consequently means that they have no control over the timing of the launch and that their choice is limited when it comes to the satellite's orbit. The commercial development of rockets, specifically designed for smaller amounts of cargo, offers a solution. For his graduation project, Nigel Drenthe improved and validated a cost estimation model for this that won the first Heinz Stoewer Space Award. “It's no longer the major satellite projects which you hear about in the media," says Nigel Drenthe. "Start-ups for developing new rockets offer fascinating technical innovations and everyone is quoting much lower prices for each kilogram of cargo". As a young boy, Nigel already had a fascination for rockets. So naturally, he chose to study Aerospace Engineering. It was during his studies that he learned exactly which technical systems were needed to shoot a rocket into the sky in a controlled way. But he also learned that a rocket will never fly without proper groundwork and cost management. Brilliant, but not feasible “Engineers are full of brilliant ideas," says Nigel Drenthe, "but they have absolutely no idea what these mean for the production of the rocket. On the other hand, managers and marketing people have no idea about technical feasibility". A visit to the Cost Engineering section of the European Space Agency (ESA) taught him that a good cost estimation model is needed, particularly in the early stage of the development process. This allows choices to be made, for example, between buying the necessary technology or developing it yourself, or pulling the plug on the whole project. Because he wanted to focus on the interface between these topics for his thesis, Nigel needed two supervisors: Barry Zandbergen (MSc Engineering) of the Space Systems Engineering Group (SSE) became his daily supervisor while Prof. Ricky Curran of the Air Transport and Operations Group (ATO) was chiefly consulted about the methodology of cost estimates. A complex cost model Nigel’s graduation project elaborates on the earlier work of Dietrich E. Koelle, a luminary in the field of space travel who has devoted himself to the costs of space transportation since 1970. Koelle suggested that commercial parties can reduce costs because they outsource work less frequently, which yields them a greater profit. As a result, they also need to employ fewer people to maintain all the contacts with their suppliers. It is these aspects that Nigel Drenthe added to Koelle’s existing cost estimation model. What’s more, he examined the costs involved in the development and production phases in much greater detail. So instead of providing an estimate for the cost for an entire rocket stage, he detailed the costs of all of the components, such as a navigation subsystem, a fuel tank and a bypass fuel system. Twenty percent accurate It is the number of launches that especially proved to be a major factor in the costs. Nigel Drenthe: “It is only at four or more launches that the contribution of the fixed costs drops below the generally accepted standard of 35% of the launch costs. For example, think about the costs of facilities, the maintenance team and mission control". He says there is scarcely any publicly available information about the development cost of rockets. Nevertheless, Nigel was able to test his model on the basis of partially classified data from two small launch vehicles: the Falcon 1 from SpaceX and the Pegasus XL from Orbital ATK. His model proved to be accurate to within twenty percent. “This is sufficient for the early stage of development", says Nigel Drenthe. “We’ll see whether this also applies to the rockets that are currently being developed. Incidentally, my model applies to both small and large launcher vehicles". A graduating student knows what to do While he was in the process of completing his studies, Nigel already put his model to use when a group of people from a certain project were considering launching a rocket from underneath a fighter jet. This would mean they could use an airport instead of an expensive launch pad. “Unfortunately, it turned out that sufficient thrust could only be provided by toxic rocket fuel. And safety requirements, mean an airport simply could not be used for this purpose. My model also showed that the costs of such a design were extremely high". The chicken and the egg Space start-ups quote extremely low prices of between five to ten million euros for transporting a few hundred kilos of cargo into Low Earth Orbit. As the price is largely determined by the number of launches, this also makes for an interesting marketing aspect. “The commercial development of small launch vehicles involves the classic chicken and egg dilemma", says Nigel Drenthe. “If the given prices become reality, I’m convinced that many small parties will be eager to make use of them. And if there is enough demand for small launch vehicles, my model demonstrates that these prices are achievable ". In addition to the technical-commercial aspect, Nigel would also have liked to have constructed the price elasticity model. “Now that’s the perfect topic for another student’s research". Click here if you would like to view Nigel’s entire graduation project and click here if you would like to read about the award ceremony.

A wealth of information on noise

In aircraft, noise is an unwanted side-effect of propulsion. In sonar, it is a useful tool for conducting accurate depth measurements. But irrespective of whether it involves a disruptive noise or the useful application of sound, it always tells you something about the source and the surrounding environment. As Associate Professor in the Aircraft Noise and Climate Effects (ANCE) group, Mirjam Snellen specialises in techniques for imaging sound and using sound for imaging. She is only happy when all of the information has been extracted from the measured noise, often using detectors developed by the group. With its noise research, the small and close-knit ANCE research group, led by Prof. Dick Simons, is deliberately positioned at the interface between metrics and modelling. “If all you do is measure and take readings, you will not have the knowledge to design quieter aircraft,” says Mirjam Snellen. “Other groups are specialised in calculation. They build models that use the shape and material of an aircraft fuselage to predict the noise that it will produce at different speeds. Of course, this then needs to be validated using measurements.” As far as the ANCE group is concerned, even an accurate noise reading on a scale model in a wind tunnel is not sufficient. They prefer to measure it in practice, in the most realistic conditions possible. A key factor in this process is to ensure that the source of the noise, in this case the fuselage, can be properly separated from other noise sources, such as the engines. Mirjam Snellen: “We can achieve that in ANCE, using our arrays”. Separating out sound A single microphone only enables you to measure the volume and pitch of the sound. This changes if you use an array of several microphones, spread across a surface. For example, the noise that comes from the aircraft's nose cone reaches the closest microphone first, followed shortly by the microphones slightly further away. Software can be used to reconstruct the different sources of noise. “This is called beamforming,” explains Mirjam Snellen. “We can use it to separate the measured noise over time according to source location, pitch (frequency) and volume. We then make corrections for background noises, noise reflections on the ground and the Doppler effect, if necessary.” Certain preconditions are required for an array of this kind. To achieve a good resolution of the low pitches, which have a long wavelength, the microphones need to be slightly further apart. For the higher pitches, they need to be slightly closer together, to prevent distortion. For this reason, an array generally has a mixture of greater and smaller distances between microphones. An array is also limited in size in order to enable transportation. A large white surface The researchers in this group have mastered the beamforming techniques down to the finest details. In the summer, they took their first readings using the newly-designed array of 64 microphones, over a surface of 4x4 square metres. With it, they can also distinguish between the different sources of noise on small aircraft. Before setting off to work, the researchers always call the airport. “After all, you're going to be covering a large white surface there. Even now, someone from the airport always comes along, but that's just out of interest.” Array readings of this kind produce impressive pictures that clearly show which part of an aircraft produces which noise. The airflow around the wings typically results in slightly lower sound frequencies whereas the engines and the blast behind them produce higher frequencies. “Our measurements test the predictions made by models. If we are not expecting much noise from the undercarriage and our measurements show something different, the model may need to be revised.” In other words, different types of aircraft have different ‘fingerprints’ and this calls for a different way of reducing noise nuisance. Quieter aircraft Schiphol and Lelystad airports are reaching their permitted noise limits and are committed to quieter aircraft for the future. In 2015, Prof. Symons joined forces with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in organising a workshop with experts from across the world. The key question was to what extent can aircraft become quieter, and how can this be achieved. “It's not easy,” says Mirjam Snellen. “For example, one option is ultra-high bypass engines. They are much quieter, but also extremely large and therefore heavy. The additional propulsion required to take off and fly could potentially end up increasing noise nuisance. Using alternative materials can alleviate the problem slightly.” The group is working on this together with the wind energy group in the same faculty, which is exploring the use of porous materials for wind turbines. “They could be used to make the nose and wing flaps or the landing gear of an aircraft slightly less noisy.” New developments like this are first tested in a wind tunnel. For this research, the group placed a microphone array in the relatively quiet vertical wind tunnel. The walls were covered with absorbent material to minimise sound reflection. Mirjam Snellen: “The challenge is to only measure the object. The array itself cannot be allowed to cause sound reflections and the microphones need to be positioned to enable precise measurements and beamforming.” Virtual noise It is easy to forget that the listener also plays an important role in noise nuisance and this also points the way towards new developments. If a group of test subjects are not disturbed by the hum from the fuselage, nothing needs to be adapted. Dick Simons was closely involved in the development of the Virtual Community Noise Simulator by the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR). In it, you can experience the noise of a landing aircraft in a completely simulated natural environment. This requires carefully measured or modelled sound, something that the ANCE group can provide. Mirjam Snellen: “In a simulator, you can switch off the noise from the wings and engines only or change the pitch, for example.” Although the latter may seem futuristic, groups are already trying to achieve it using smart modifications in shape and material. Safety in shipping Beamforming also plays an important role in using echo sounding to determine the depth of water, which can improve safety in shipping. For example, precise information about the current water depths provides useful input for the frequency of dredging in and around the port of Rotterdam, ensuring it remains accessible even to the largest ships. Identifying water depths in this way can be done efficiently using multi-beam echo sounders (MBES). An MBES is an echo sounder that emits several narrow beams of sound simultaneously (a ‘ping’). Each of the beams propagates through the water, reflecting on the bottom before being recorded by the MBES again. Combined with the noise profile as a function of the depth, half of the time between sending and receiving a ping gives you the distance from the MBES to the bottom. Each ping identifies the bottom across a wide line, perpendicular to the direction of travel of the ship being studied. The entire bottom of the channel of water can be charted by using several parallel movements. Mirjam Snellen: “in the Netherlands, we are one of very few groups with a good knowledge of all the technical details of MBES; the system, its impact on the environment and the algorithms.” The MBES systems are complicated and expensive but achieve the level of precision required by government of just a few centimetres at depths of up to several tens of metres. Any new systems and cheaper alternatives will also need to prove they can meet these criteria before they will be permitted for use by a dredging company, for example. Mirjam Snellen: “We have developed a model that determines whether measurements meet these standards, given a set of measurement systems.” In addition, it is possible to obtain more information from the current systems, for example by also looking at the intensity of the echo signal alongside its two-way travel time. Mirjam Snellen: “In recent years, we have developed several methods to not only determine the water depths, but also the composition of the seabed using MBES measurements. For example, would it be a suitable site for a wind farm?” Using all of the data It was her determination to obtain all of the information available from sound that resulted in a method for improving the accuracy of MBES depth measurements. The raw data from an MBES system has to be corrected for many variables, including the underwater sound speed profile. This depends on the pressure (depth), temperature and salt content. In estuaries or tidal areas in particular, local variations in the sound speed can result in inaccurate readings. Mirjam Snellen: “This lack of precision increases towards the edges of the strip being measured. In the past, this was simply accepted or the measurements were taken again. But that is not necessary if you realise that the strips measured partly overlap.” She developed an algorithm that uses the extra data from this overlap to calculate the sound speed profiles. “It's not an estimate, it's physics,” says Mirjam Snellen. “With the occasional re-measurement, of course,” she adds with a laugh. Measurement is the key to knowledge Her algorithm for the underwater sound speed profile was recently implemented in commercial hydrographic software, but actually originates from 2009. “As in other fields, it can take time for solutions to be applied in practice,” says Mirjam Snellen. Another current topic to which this applies is the calculation of aircraft noise impact at airports. For this, so-called noise power distance tables are used. “No one knows how accurate the use of these tables is. This is 2018, why not position some arrays at the airport and actually measure this noise experience?” Find more information about the ANCE group here.

Airplane maintenance at the speed of data

While your airplane is on its way to reach your destination, all airplane systems and components are also on their way, very slowly, from a healthy state to one of malfunction. Four tenure trackers from TU Delft envision that the terabytes of data a modern airplane generates each day can be used to determine the health condition of all airplane parts, from wheels and brakes to air-conditioning to structural integrity. They built a multi-industry collaboration resulting in a 6.8 million euros Horizon2020 grant for their ReMAP project proposal. It may pave the way for a paradigm shift in airplane maintenance and save up to 700 million euros in maintenance costs per year for Europe alone. Adaptive Maintenance Schedules When a light indicates something to be wrong with an airplane system, it often may not be clear which part of a (sub-)system is causing the error. “Using historical and actual airplane data, we can help pinpoint the root cause, saving time and money,“ says Bruno Santos, project leader. “More importantly, most maintenance in aviation is preventive, meaning that many systems and components are inspected while they are still in good health. We want to use health diagnostics and prognostics to switch to real-time condition-based interventions.” It is this switch to condition-based maintenance (CBM) that drives the researchers. They state that the thousands of sensors in a modern airplane, the accessibility and fast communication of the vast data obtained from these sensors, and the increasing capability of data analytics provide the ideal context its implementation. Bruno Santos: “We think the data generated can provide a reliable estimate as to the remaining useful lifetime of all airplane parts, reducing the need for manual inspections and allowing adaptive maintenance intervals.” Part of their research plan is to increase the amount of data generated even further by adding sensors to monitor the structural integrity of airplanes. Currently, airplane maintenance is pre-scheduled according to fixed intervals, with the intervals determined by flight hours, flight cycles or calendar days, whichever comes first. The maintenance effort varies from quick daily checks to several weeks for complete airplane overhaul. Deviations from the strict regulatory maintenance schedules are only allowed for non-flight-critical components. Even then it takes a lot of effort to convince the regulatory authorities that the same high safety level will be maintained using an alternative maintenance schedule. The researchers’ vision is, however, shared by the Advisory Council for Aeronautical Research in Europe (ACARE) which envisages CBM to be the standard for all new airplanes by 2050. “The idea of condition-based maintenance is not new,” says Bruno Santos, “but its application in aviation is minimal and there is no roadmap as to its implementation. We want to provide this roadmap and prove that the current safety level can be maintained or even improved.” Smart diagnostics and prognostics The ReMAP proposal states an estimated benefit to European aviation of more than 700 million Euro per year due to a direct decrease in maintenance costs, reduced unscheduled airplane maintenance events, and increased airplane availability. “There simply is too much information when we extend airplane health monitoring to a set of systems and structures. What we create are decision support systems for a reliable and consistent application of CBM. It will still be the human operator making the final decision.” The researchers want to develop off-line algorithms to enhance both diagnostics (something is broken, and it is most likely due to this sub-system) and prognostics (this sub-system or component may fail within a certain timeframe), dealing with the vast amount of data generated by an entire fleet of airplanes. These will be complemented by lean on-board versions of the algorithms that may allow for a quick check of the airplane conditions while flying, even supporting unscheduled maintenance planning during a regular stop-over. Increased understanding of the deterioration of systems and structures can furthermore lead to a significant reduction in airplane weight and systems’ complexity. In the long-term, the number of on-board backup systems may be reduced, and load-bearing structures may become less overdimensioned as a result of new airplane design philosophies supported by CBM. TU Delft as project leader The four tenure trackers submitted their proposal to the Horizon2020 program, which encourages research institutes and industry to bring innovative technologies to higher maturity levels. Bruno Santos, Wim Verhagen and Mihaela Mitici are from the group of Air Transport and Operations and Dimitrios Zarouchas is from the Structural Integrity & Composites group, all from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. “Our group focusses on all aspects of air transport operations and planning, from support to maintenance to crew,” says Bruno Santos. “The common denominator being that the research has to involve an airplane. Our view is that we need to deal more and more with data, reacting swiftly. The world is not deterministic, stochastic uncertainties need to be taken into account in the decision process.” The TU Delft will lead the project as they have already run several projects on this topic. The TU Delft researchers quickly assembled collaborators, involving major players in the European airline industry, such as the airline company KLM, the airplane manufacturer Embraer Portugal, the research center from UTC (the largest airplane systems manufacturer), and the multinational IT company ATOS. Several universities and research institutes joined the consortium as well, together with the support of three small and medium enterprises (SME). Most parties are new collaborators for the TU Delft team, but they were eager to join, often after the first contact. “The companies would not have joined if they didn’t believe we, as a consortium, can do the research and get it close to the market,” says Bruno Santos. “On the other hand, their input was very valuable for assessing the industry needs and the added value of the solution proposed. They also provided valuable contributions to the sections of the proposal related to the economic impact.” ReMAP is Bruno Santos’ first proposal as a project leader, and with immediate success. Less than ten of the more than 100 proposals submitted to the specific Horizon2020 call received funding. Four to five new PhD students will be involved at the TU Delft alone. The project will extend the concept of CBM currently being explored by AIRMES, an ongoing European project in which TU Delft is also participating, with Verhagen and Santos as involved researchers. “With ReMAP we provide a full package. We cover both systems and structures, we apply machine learning techniques to build a decision support tool for optimizing maintenance, and we perform a safety risk analysis to validate that maintenance reliability will at least be preserved if not improved compared to current standards.Even though we’ll put a flag on the horizon, there are still some challenges limiting the application of CBM in practice as envisaged in our project.” Lab tests and field tests The researchers will focus on twelve airplane systems, such as cabin air-conditioning, the auxiliary power unit, wheels and brakes. Systems data is provided by the collaborating parties. Together they will develop and apply machine learning techniques and physics-based models to build diagnostic and prognostic algorithms from the terabytes of data they’ll collect. During the project run-time these predictive algorithms will be validated in the lab, continuously improving them until final verification during an unprecedented six months field test. These field tests will focus on the KLM fleet of Boeing 787 airplanes (twenty per 2020) and KLM City Hopper Embraer 175 (ten per 2020). For structures the researchers will perform lab tests at TU Delft and the University of Patras, Greece, initially using basic stiffener panels and then increasing their complexity to curved multi-stiffener panels with ribs and fasteners. The focus will be on the composite elements of the structure of the airplane. They will continue the development of sensor technologies and optimize their placement with respect to the panels. Bruno Santos: “Structural health monitoring is an underdeveloped concept in practice. This project is a trial for how it could evolve in the future.” Workshops and a whitepaper The researchers plan to involve more airline companies and other stakeholders by organizing regular workshops, sharing their results and raising interest. “The scale factor is important for CBM,” says Bruno Santos. “The same airplane type is used by multiple airlines. Without sharing the actual data, the ICT-framework we will build can use all of it to increase the predictive power of our models.” At the end of the project they will publish their findings in a whitepaper. “It’s a roadmap. What we expect to be able to show is that it may be safe to relax some maintenance constraints, and how to safely implement CBM. Then it is up to the worldwide regulatory aviation authorities to discuss current regulations and the way to proceed towards the implementation of CBM.” The researchers will involve the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), local authorities, Airbus, Thales, and many other relevant stakeholders in the discussion of this whitepaper. Such regulatory changes take time. In twenty years’ time, however, your in-flight entertainment system may be working not because it isn’t broken or prematurely overhauled, but because its condition and remaining useful lifetime are meticulously monitored.

Fiery romance: a risk-model for sky lanterns

When it comes to romance, few spectacles can compete with a swarm of gently floating sky lanterns. They are especially popular on New Year’s Eve. Michiel Schuurman is also mesmerized by the sight. But as assistant professor in the Structural Integrity and Composites Group and as an instructor of the Forensic Engineering course he also sees the risks. Schuurman: “According to our measurements they reach much higher altitudes than allowed. They can even reach altitudes aircraft fly. And there is the risk of wildfires.” He and his colleague Derek Gransden performed experiments to model these risks. It can help authorities in evaluating existing sky lantern legislation. Not near an airport In the Netherlands a sky lantern is considered a toy and as such it is regulated by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NFCPSA). The authority investigated sky lantern safety but according to Schuurman they limited themselves to the risks for the user and his/her direct surroundings. According to the recommendations of the NFCPSA, sky lanterns may only be launched when the wind force is less than three Beaufort and when the nearest (glider) airport is at least 15 km away. Schuurman: “This means that their use is limited to at most 20 days per year and to about one-third of the Netherlands. However, your wedding is today and ‘here’.” The fire brigade would like to see a nationwide ban on sky lanterns because of the fire hazard for forests, dunes and houses with thatched roofs. Such incidents have been reported but retailers claim to stick to the NFCPSA safety regulations. “What this discussion needs,” says Schuurman, “is clear data about the risks associated with the use of sky lanterns.” He and colleague Derek Gransden got to work. Hot air Schuurman: “Up to now our research was aimed at the vertical flight profile of sky lanterns. What altitude can they reach and how long do they remain airborne?” Archimedes’ principle dictates that a balloon is positively buoyed upwards by a force equal to the weight of the air it displaces. After correction for gravity, the vertical acceleration of the balloon follows from Newton’s second law: force equals mass times acceleration (F = m×a). The balloon furthermore experiences drag. The three key parameters in balloon performance are the shape and volume of the balloon and the weight of the fuel cell. The fuel cell determines the amount of energy available to heat the air inside the balloon. The volume and temperature of the heated air determine the lift. “Our model is based on formulas for hot air balloons published in the seventies. We applied a number of simplifications such as the assumption of a uniform pressure and temperature inside the balloon.” Bean bag beads Schuurman and Gransden performed experiments with five types of balloons. First they determined their volume. This proved to be more difficult than anticipated as sky lanterns are very fragile. They can’t be filled with water. “The solution was to pack them with polystyrene beads from a bean bag.” In addition, the minimal lift of sky lanterns is a challenge to measure. Schuurman: “We experimented for six months before settling on a simple approach that provided the best consistency. Sky lantern lift is best measured by attaching them with a light string to known masses atop a digital scale. Reproducibility was still an issue due to varying workmanship. We observed large variations in the flight profile due to the little extra weight of excess adhesive surface.” Schuurman and Gransden performed their experiments in a fireproof laboratory free from horizontal airflow. They monitored the temperature inside the balloon with an infrared camera while using a regular video camera to log the moments of ignition, lift-off and landing. “’Landing’ in our setup corresponds with the balloon reaching its pinnacle during an outdoor flight.” Surprized pilots “All balloons land within ten minutes after lift-off. But contrary to the findings of the NFCPSA, our model shows that a cruising altitude of more than 300 metres is common for sky lanterns rather than an exception.” On average they reach an altitude of 500 metres. That is the altitude where they interfere with small airplanes and with larger airplanes taking off and landing. “Many pilots told me about their encounters with sky lanterns. A single balloon will cause little to no damage to an airplane, but an entire swarm of sky lanterns can startle a pilot at a time when he/she needs full attention for a safe landing.” Fire hazard “Our first results indicate that the sky lantern discussion needs additional research.” Schuurman and Gransden would now like to validate their model in the open air, tracking the balloons using a drone. This would require special permission. The next step is to model the horizontal flight profile. They already have the data of wind force and wind direction in the Netherlands needed for this. Building a risk model is the final step. Even though manufacturers use impregnated paper, the greatest risk of sky lanterns remains starting a wildfire. “If I launch my balloon from this location,” says Schuurman, “where will it go, what kind of vegetation and buildings will it come across and can it still be aflame when landing?” Their experiments and those by the NFCPSA show that the latter is indeed possible. Together they used only a few dozen balloons while sales in the Netherlands were already in the order of a few hundred thousand balloons in 2009. Add to that the rise in sales at firework shops and online. Scientific and playful In the summer of 2017 Schuurman presented their research at the AIAA Balloon Systems Conference in Denver, Colorado. The venue was packed with NASA employees and other balloon researchers, their eyes twinkling. “Just imagine,” says Schuurman, “these people operate balloons for researching earth and possibly other planets. Our research into sky lanterns may appear playful, but it certainly isn’t less scientific. Our completed model could be used by the authorities to re-evaluate existing sky lantern legislation.” Read tips about using sky lanterns (Dutch only)

Kevin Cowan: ‘Rote memorization is not thinking’

Space Engineering lecturer Kevin Cowan wants to teach his students the essence of understanding. Since this September, the Aerospace Engineering Teacher of the Year Award 2016-2017 shines on the left corner of his desk. ‘You know, that’s not there to show off,’ Cowan says. ‘It’s there to remind me that it actually happened, that what I do is appreciated.’ Cowan earned his bachelor’s degree in Texas, USA and his master’s at the faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft, where he now teaches courses in Space Engineering. He also earned an MBA and worked in strategic and financial advice for numerous organisations, amongst which the British government. ‘It was interesting work, but at some point I started wondering: how can I make a difference in this world?’ He remembered how certain lecturers during his studies (amongst whom: Ron Noomen) inspired him in the classroom. ‘They didn’t just explain, they exposed the magic of a subject. It sounds cliché, but if you know how to light that kind of fire in somebody’s mind, they can face any challenge later on.’ Cowan decided he would do his part by teaching. Curious like Newton Cowan teaches among other courses the MSc courses Astrodynamics I and II with his colleague Eelco Doornbos. The main textbook, titled ‘Fundamentals of Astrodynamics’, is full of formulas and text. How do you go about teaching such a heavy-duty subject? ‘I start with something fundamental that all students can relate to. Then we peel the formula apart. Do you really understand what it is about? Or have you simply memorised the formula? Observing and memorising is useful, but it cannot help you to predict anything, to create something new. If we take an idea apart and understand all the different building blocks that it is composed of, we can use those blocks to build anything.’ Cowan refers to Newton. ‘Imagine you are sitting beside Newton. He is sitting in his office behind his desk with his paper and quill. There is a candle on the corner of his desk, lightning up the room. He gazes outside, up towards the stars, and wonders: ‘how does it all work?’ I try to teach students this ‘feel for physics’, the wonder and the essence of understanding it. You don’t actually need Google or a computer to grasp it.’ Bells and whistles ‘At first I was not very fond of online education,’ Cowan says. ‘It was just another way of delivering material to students, although for that it can be useful. In the meantime, I’ve come to appreciate its surprising benefits. Nevertheless, it can’t replace the human-to-human interaction in the classroom. We should be careful not to get distracted by all the bells and whistles of online tools.’ What is the added value of teaching in a classroom? Cowan: ‘There are three pillars in education: knowledge, skills and motivation. If someone has only some of the first two but tons of motivation, he or she can get very far. You can move mountains with motivation. Motivating students, actually connecting with them and getting into a real, thoughtful conversation cannot happen without direct contact. If you, as a teacher, are just transferring information to students, something a computer can do as well, you will be out of a job soon. No, you should be out of a job soon.’ Cowan doesn’t see a world in which education is only offered online. ‘That would be suboptimal,’ he says. ‘If we want to tackle the challenges we are now facing in the world, we need to work together. If we don’t, we are in a heap of trouble. Universities are the cauldrons of change. We need to step up and accept responsibility — for guiding students to be active, life-long learners rather than passive recipients of knowledge — and for guiding students to take a pro-active role in improving society and our stewardship of the planet, to use their knowledge, skills, and motivation to be a force for good.’

Being part of a DreamTeam: ‘This is a unique opportunity’

Team Ecorunner VII Aerospace Engineering student Paul Hulsman (23) is the Team Manager of the Eco-Runner Team Delft, one of the many DreamTeams at TU Delft. The team’s aim: to build the most fuel-efficient car possible. A new team is now being put together, and Paul reflects on his time with the Eco-Runner. ‘Not everyone at TU Delft realises it, but the D:DREAM Hall is a truly wonderful place’. The Eco-Runner Team Delft dates back to 2005. The first Eco-Runner Team was founded by three students from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. Since then, a new team has been put together every year, which then spends the following months continuing work on the Eco-Runner in the D:DREAM Hall (Delft: Dream Realization of Extremely Advanced Machines). The Delft team subsequently takes the improved Eco-Runner to compete in the Shell, a student competition held in June every year. Studying and a DreamTeam Paul Hulsman is Team Manager of the Eco-Runner Team Delft. He is studying the Wind Physics track of the European Wind Energy Master’s (EWEM) at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. Paul has already completed the first year of his Master’s. He then decided to take a year out to concentrate on the Eco-Runner (VII) and in September, he departs for Denmark to continue with the second part of his Master’s. Paul: ‘I was previously also involved in another DreamTeam: the Formula Student Team Delft. That was part-time, but I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to join another DreamTeam on a full-time basis. The aim of the Eco-Runner (building the most fuel-efficient car possible) really appealed to me, so that is the team that I applied to join’. Unique opportunity ‘I think you learn a lot in a DreamTeam that you are unlikely to learn elsewhere’, says Paul. ‘At the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, we have the Design/Synthesis Exercise at the end of our third year, during which you also learn certain soft skills such as teamwork. But working together with students from other faculties is a different kettle of fish. Also because you realise that everyone tackles certain things slightly differently. During my studies, I had absolutely nothing to do with PR – now I am learning a lot about the field. Alongside learning to take a problem-solving approach to technical issues, you also have to learn how best to communicate with companies. And once I get a job after graduating, I cannot imagine my boss saying: “go and build a car”. This is a unique opportunity’. Challenges While every Eco-Runner Team continues to build on the design and expertise gained by the previous team, each new team is faced by fresh challenges; especially when a new Eco-Runner is built, as was the case this year. Paul: ‘One of our greatest technical challenges was to tailor the design of the Eco-Runner VII to a more dynamic track with tighter corners than on previous tracks. That makes fuel-efficient driving more difficult. The drivetrain had to be completely redesigned, which meant that the suspension also needed to be adjusted. So while you are always taking the Eco-Runner to the next step, some things just have to be developed from scratch’. The trial The Shell Eco-marathon was held in London in late May of this year. Each team is given four attempts as standard, and each attempt consists of ten laps. During the first attempt, the Eco-Runner VII suffered a puncture. During the second attempt, the top cover flew off due to strong winds. A screw came loose during the third attempt and in the fourth, the fuel cell began to leak. Unfortunately, the team were therefore unable to complete any of their attempts. Paul: ‘Luck was certainly not on our side this year. Nevertheless, it was fantastic to experience the atmosphere and meet the other teams. And I am hugely proud of our team’. The current record stands at 3,771 km, which is roughly the distance from Amsterdam to Rome and back. For the next generation Paul: ‘You can work on the Eco-Runner either part-time or full-time, but I would recommend full-time. In retrospect, I think that it is better to take a year out between the Bachelor’s and Master’s, instead of during the Master’s. Personally, I missed a degree of work experience during the first year of the Master’s. But that is perhaps because EWEM is home to lots of students who already have some work experience. In Denmark, for example, it is quite common to work for three or four years after completing your Bachelor’s before starting your Master’s, but that seems a bit inconvenient to me. A year out is perfect. You learn so much in such a short space of time, and it is an unforgettable experience. How many people can say that they have designed and built their own car?’ ---. Want to learn more about the Eco-Runner? Follow the Facebook page or visit the website . Interested in joining the team? Click here to apply.