Cranfield University’s newest world-class facility, the £35m Aerospace Integration Research Centre, is open for business from today.

The keys to the building have been given to the university by the building contractor RG Carter’s. From this week, the centre will be home to Cranfield researchers and industrial partners with the aim of investigating ways of integrating advanced technologies and reducing time from academic innovation to industrial application.

Researchers from both the university and business partners, including Airbus and Rolls-Royce, will work under the one roof. Research at the centre will look at the most effective ways of integrating the aircraft and its subsystems as well as developing the use of automation.

Features of the new centre include:

  • A visualisation area, air-traffic management simulation and large aircraft flight simulator used to test new ideas and impact on aircraft. Feedback screens are linked to the visualisation lab and the pod meeting area.
  • 1500m² open lab – to be used for testing intelligent robots in the structural assembly of aircraft parts, including 18m x 6m sliding doors to allow a demonstrator aircraft, such as the University’s 19-seater Jetstream 31, to enter the facility.
  • A full-size aircraft wing.
  • A FANUC CR-35iA robot – which can operate in an uncaged, open space, and determine the proximity of a person or object so it will stop if touched.
  • Closed labs for research requiring a controlled environment such as testing UAVs, structures, assembly and intelligent automation.

The AIRC building has taken two years to complete, 19 months since the initial groundbreaking in July 2015. The AIRC project’s £35 million investment consists of co-funding from Rolls-Royce and Airbus, HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) and from Cranfield itself.

Cranfield is the only university in Europe that brings together major aerospace research facilities, including the Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC), its airport and runway on one connected site.

Tim Mackley, Head of the AIRC said: “This is an exciting day, marking a significant milestone in the journey towards a more integrated approach to research between academia and industry with an aim of developing innovative and integrated solutions for aerospace.”

An official opening of the Centre will take place later this year.

Internal view
Inside AIRC, view of the pod

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is an exclusively postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.