Cranfield University has officially received the new Digital Aviation and Research Technology Centre (DARTeC) building from contractor R G Carter.

The £65 million world-leading facility is located next to Cranfield’s airport and consists of a central building containing a suite of digital aviation research laboratories and a partially covered ‘hangar laboratory’ connected to Cranfield’s 737-400 aircraft through an airport-style air bridge.

Researchers at DARTeC are already working with industry partners to advance the application of digital technologies in the air transport sector and the building includes collaborative open plan office space where staff, students and partners can engage and share ideas.

Professor Graham Braithwaite, Project Lead and Director of Transport Systems at Cranfield, said: “Formally taking ownership of the DARTeC building from R G Carter marks a milestone in our project to create this cutting-edge digital aviation research centre. The futuristic-looking building is a stunning addition to the Cranfield skyline and will be a key part of our global research airport as we continue our work in developing the aircraft, airports, airlines and airspace management systems of the future.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in the construction of the building and all those who continue to work on the development of DARTeC as we prepare for the building’s opening next year.”

Dr Adrian Cole, DARTeC Programme Manager, said: “I would particularly like to add my thanks to the R G Carter construction team and all sub-contractors for their exceptional efforts over this past year under circumstances none of us could ever have predicted. They have created an amazing building that is already having an impact on the UK’s aviation research community, helping to launch new and exciting projects that can only enhance the UK’s position globally.”

The DARTeC facility has been constructed with almost 300 tonnes of structural steel and 1,800 square metres of standing seam roofing over the two buildings.

Dean Hall, Construction Director at R G Carter said: “It has been a pleasure to work on another innovative and unique project with Cranfield University. We are proud to be able to support the University’s vision and to hand over this state-of-the-art facility, which will provide ground-breaking research into emergent technologies within the aviation industry.”

DARTeC aims to address some of the main research challenges facing the aviation industry, including:

•           the integration of drones into civilian airspace;

•           increasing the efficiency of airports through technological advances;

•           creating safe, secure shared airspace through secure data communication infrastructures;

•           increasing the reliability and availability of aircraft utilising self-sensing/aware and self-healing/repair technologies.

Game-changing technologies such as the first operational digital air traffic control tower in the UK and next-generation radar technologies on the University’s licensed airport create a unique research and development environment.

DARTeC consortium partners include Aveillant, Blue Bear Systems Research, Boeing, BOXARR, the Connected Places Catapult, Cranfield University, Etihad Airways, Inmarsat, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the IVHM Centre, Saab, the Satellite Applications Catapult and Thales, with co-investment support from Research England.