Prepare for Landing: SUSTAINair Consortium Meet at Royal NLR

Representatives from the SUSTAINair Consortium’s 11 partners got together at Royal NLR’s offices in the Netherlands earlier this week. The occasion marked both the 2023 Executive Board and General Assembly meeting for SUSTAINair, looking ahead to the project’s final stretch, with research planned to wrap up in roughly half a year, by June 2024. The meeting took place on the premises of the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (Royal NLR) in Marknesse in the Dutch province of Flevoland. 


Marking Progress

Johan Vlastuin (AELS) – the General Assembly's newest member
Inside day 1 of the SUSTAINair meeting at Royal NLR
Inside day 1 of the SUSTAINair meeting at Royal NLR

Top of the agenda was a look ahead to the coming period and final 6 months of the project, in which the production & testing of 3 different demonstrators bringing together various findings from throughout the project will take centre stage. The designs of all three demonstrators were discussed and confirmed at the meeting. ahead of manufacture and testing to be conducting in the coming months. Demonstrator I for example  includes an aluminium frame for a wing-supporting structure, and wing skins and a leading edge composed of Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer (GFRP), along with integrated sensor networks (read a technical site visit report with INOCON on this blog for more).

Team members from Leichtmetallkompetenzzentrum Ranshofen GmbH (AIT-LKR)Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), Institute of Materials Research at DLR, JOANNEUM Research, the Institute of Structural Lightweight Design (IKL) at JKU Linz, the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft, AELS – Aircraft End-of-Life Solutions, INOCON Technologie GmbH, INVENT GmbH, Collins Aerospace, and RTDS Group all participated in the meeting. Key aims – alongside the key technical milestones of demonstrator design – included discussing forthcoming communication activities to finalise three years of research for the public, and a series of activities focusing on developing further plans to exploit the project’s results. 

SUSTAINair seeks to bring together new joining and disassembly techniques for metals and composites relevant to aviation, along with a fresh approach to structural health monitoring, new material research, and more besides. The core effort is one aiming to forge a realistic path towards circular aviation, i.e., the efficient reuse of aircraft material and minimising of waste. 

During the meeting at Royal NLR, result were presented from technical work packages 2 (Circular Manufacturing and EoL), 4 (Joining and Repair of Similar and Dissimilar Material Combinations), and 5 (2nd Life Demonstrator Realization), showing progress towards the project’s completion as scheduled within half a year. Amongst the newest results presented at the meeting were a brand new approach to aircraft disassembly via the use of waterjet cutting,  and upcycling processes to reuse Titanium powder in LPBF. (Laser Power Bed Fusion) Some areas of research are due results in the coming months, including work on life-cycle assessment (LCA) of various processes, calculating the climate impact of aviation parts in a holistic and all-encompassing manner. 

In addition to finalising research results and securing communication activities to share SUSTAINair’s findings with a broader public, developing the Post-Project Exploitation Plan is a chief priority for the consortium. A series of bilateral discussions between partners and the SUSTAINair IMTF (Innovation Management Task Force) is foreseen to forge specific plans to exploit various project results. This could mean further research to bring innovations out of the lab and into the sky – or it could already mean applying to secure intellectual property rights for SUSTAINair partners’ fresh ideas. This process will take place over the course of the next half-a-year.

The General Assembly were also happy to welcome on board two new members: Johan Vlastuin from AELS and J.A. (John-Alan) Pascoe from TU Delft. The project’s coordinators from AIT-LKR were delighted to be able to assure the consortium of their progress thus far – and encourage them to stay the course to ensure SUSTAINair meets its final targets in mid-2024 as timetabled. The 2nd day of the meeting also included a guided tour of Royal NLR’s impressive facility, including the Automated Composite and Additive Manufacturing technology centre of the Structures Technology department (AVST) and the Structures Testing & Evaluation facilities of our Test House (AVTH).

Nailing the Landing for Circular Aviation

Along with several results and deliverables due in the coming months, special focus falls on SUSTAINair’s communication activities in the project’s final period during early 2024. This is the key moment for the consortium to spread the word about this project’s achievements and contributions to the development of #circularaviation. Stay tuned to SUSTAINair’s website and social media accounts for updates regarding the project’s participation in upcoming conferences, not to mention its own ‘final conference’ bringing together sister projects in the field of sustainable aviation to look ahead to a circular future for flight. 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101006952