Aston and Airbus embark on innovative collaboration


5 August 2015

Aston University and Airbus are to collaborate in a part of a significant Aerospace Technology Institute project called 'Fuel & Systems Integrated Research' (FSIR). 

The project will evaluate four novel photonic techniques for measuring liquid levels and will develop the most promising of these techniques for potential application to fuel gauging on aircraft.

This project will focus on the development of the next generation of fuel systems and enabling technologies and capabilities. These new technologies will supply current and future commercial aircraft with the means to improve product competitiveness, reduce costs to operators and reduce emissions in line with key industry targets (ACARE Flightpath 2050). The project will address some of the key challenges facing the development of the next generation of fuel and inerting systems technologies. Airbus is one of the largest manufacturers of commercial jetliners in the world and has over 40 years of experience in innovation.

Aston’s Institute of Photonic Technologies (AIPT) comprises around 90 researchers and has been innovating in optical sensing systems for 20 years through collaborative projects with household names, like Airbus, as well as a host of smaller SMEs.

The research work involves the assessment of four novel photonic techniques for measuring liquid levels in the fuel tank of an aeroplane, with a prototype being constructed of the most successful candidates. The goal is to explore alternative technologies to the capacitance-based electronic devices that are currently used for measuring fuel levels in aeroplanes. The new sensors will have the advantages of reduced weight whilst more easily achieving current Intrinsic Safety requirements due to elimination of electrical inputs into the fuel tank.

The development of innovative fuel systems, enabled by this research, will contribute to maintaining and enhancing the current market position of the UK aerospace industry; Aerospace is a UK success story which makes a significant and positive economic impact. 

The funding provided for the FSIR project will enable the partners to bring together a critical mass of knowledge, skills and capability, in order to deliver significant technical enhancements for future fuel systems.

Steve Lawson, Project Leader from Airbus, said: “We are happy to be working with Aston University on this project which will enable us to assess these different photonic methods.   It’s a new and exciting area and we look forward to the results.” 

Professor David Webb from Aston University, said: “We are pleased to once again be working with Airbus. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to build on our relationship with the company in a project with real benefits to business.”

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email or call 0121 204 4242.