UM partnership with Airbus aims to improve aircraft and generate interest in aerospace engineering

Thursday, July 6, 2017 - 8:33pm

An agreement signed at the Paris Air Show in June will create a partnership between Airbus, a global company that produces both civilian and military aerospace products and services, and the Aerospace Engineering program at the University of Michigan.

The joint center will provide significant research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students alike for studying computer simulation tools for designing aircraft. The main goal of the center, formally known as the Airbus-University of Michigan Center for Aero-Servo-Elasticity for Very Flexible Aircraft, is to create advanced designs utilizing long wingspans, which will hopefully increase cruise efficiency and reduce operating costs for long-haul flights, according to the Michigan News.


 

Carlos Cesnik, the director of the new center and a professor of aerospace engineering, explained how the partnership originated.

“Airbus was looking to expand its external partnerships with universities, and in that spirit, they were reviewing potential university partnerships around the globe in the field of advanced design methodologies for aeronautic applications,” he said. “It was a very comprehensive process that lasted over a year. We presented them with a very innovative and concrete proposal, with which they are going to accelerate their own learning on fields as model-based system engineering and other advanced analysis and design approaches.”

In addition to studying the possible designs, researchers at the center will explore solutions to problems that could appear if the new designs were implemented. These include issues concerning how the wings could respond to the airflow around them during specific maneuvers or how pilots would have to be trained differently to manage the new aircraft.

With a new unlimited scope of questions to be answered, thanks to the partnership, an overwhelming of research opportunities are now available. Together, Airbus engineers and University students and faculty will have the chance to work closely together and use their expertise to research many of the aforementioned topics.

Cesnik emphasized that this would have a big impact on the Aerospace Engineering program at the University.

“Our new collaborative center will enable the education of students at multiple levels,” he said. “While the core of the research activities will be performed by doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, the Center for Aero-Servo-Elasticity of Very Flexible Aircraft will provide opportunities for undergraduate and master’s students to be engaged in research, to interact with Airbus engineers and to perform summer internships in the various Airbus sites around the globe, mainly in Europe."

He noted the project fits well with overal objectives of the college.

"This directly supports our College of Engineering goal of increasing the opportunity for our undergraduate students to have experience abroad and enrich their appreciation for the global environment in which we do engineering," he said.

Along with faculty, students are excited at the prospect of these new opportunities. Engineering junior Katie Megerian expressed the importance of having as much hands-on experience as possible in engineering — especially in the field of aerospace engineering.

“I am currently six weeks into an internship with United Launch Alliance as a propulsion test intern,” she said. “Last summer I studied abroad in Berlin, Germany in a wind tunnel aerodynamics lab through IPE. Both experiences have taught me that it is easier to learn about the thing you’re interested in, which, for me, is aerospace, when you have hands on experiences. Not only could the Airbus Center pull in those who already know they love aerospace, but it could also attract those who aren't quite sure yet.”

Megerian also talked about how the University’s prevalence in aerospace engineering increases student opportunities because companies look to recruit students with a rigorous educational background.

“I think it is great that Airbus has reached out to Michigan students because it shows they're interested in us,” she said. “The great thing about going to a top school like Michigan is that companies recognize that, so they invest in us. Having an Airbus Center could further prove that to Michigan students.”