A 1/30th scale model of an Airbus A350 fabricated in high grade steel and ready for a series of wind tunnel tests.

Wind gust generator imitates real-world turbulence

A gust generator that accurately replicates real-world wind conditions for aircraft, said to be the first of its kind, is to be installed at the Aircraft Research Association’s (ARA) Bedford complex.

The generator is capable of simulating transonic or cruising speeds that are typically experienced by aircraft and will be used in the wind tunnel at the ARA’s research centre.

The project is the result of a collaboration between product development company 42 Technology and electronics manufacturer Briton EMS.

The ARA hopes that the new tool will allow for greater innovation in aircraft engineering by improving the understanding of how turbulence affects aircraft performance.

The generator includes a sophisticated control system and is part of an investment at the Association in new systems and services thanks to £9m in funding by the Aerospace Technology Institute.

The tool could help manufacturers to modify their aircraft designs or to develop systems to compensate for gusts, leading to smoother flights.

The developers, who have frequently worked together for industrial and consumer electronics clients in the past, teamed up with ARA’s in-house engineering team to design, manufacture and install the control system for the new generator. 

42 Technology designed the system to link the generator’s control desk with a network of 1,800 solenoid valves, each of which needs to be opened and closed within 20 milliseconds to deliver the required gust profiles.

The control system is housed in four two-metre-high electronics cabinets and was completed from initial design to installation in under two months.

“42 Technology and Briton EMS have been instrumental in helping to develop ARA’s new gust generator and to meet the demanding delivery deadlines for this large-scale project.  Their engineers worked very well alongside our in-house team to develop and integrate the control system and to help us launch a world first for aerospace research,” said Kevin Williams, chief engineer at ARA.

“This is a great story,” said Briton EMS business manager Peter Towler.  “We had to work within very tight timescales to make rapid prototypes, carry out new product engineering, fully procure all materials, manufacture and test the finished items.” 

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