Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) Image Cranfield University

DARTeC is due to open next year at Cranfield University

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has joined the £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC), due to open next year at Cranfield University.

Etihad is the first airline to join the DARTeC consortium which has been working for the last four years to deliver the research facility.

Etihad brings expertise in sustainability, operational efficiency, safety and improved passenger experience along with real-world operational capability to the project.

Professor Graham Braithwaite, project lead and director of Transport Systems at Cranfield University, said:

“We’re delighted to welcome Etihad to the DARTeC project, with construction of our building now nearing completion at Cranfield’s global research airport.

“As an innovative airline focused on the future challenges of safety, efficiency and sustainability, there is much overlap between Etihad’s aims and the research themes of DARTeC.

“We look forward to working together to deliver the innovation required to enable the industry to ‘build back better’ from COVID-19.”

Specific topics Etihad and DARTeC will collaborate on include:

  • Reducing aircraft emissions both in the air and on the ground
  • Creating safe, secure and efficient airspace
  • Better understanding of whole-life sustainability impacts of aircraft
  • Enhancing the passenger experience
  • Increasing the reliability and availability of aircraft

Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer, Etihad Airways, said:

“As an innovative, future-focused carrier, membership of DARTeC is a natural fit for Etihad, providing a unique opportunity to expand exploration of key topics across sustainability, safety and passenger experience with industry leading partners.

“With this new partnership we hope to bring the best ideas, approaches and projects to Etihad to ultimately ensure that our operations are cutting edge and that our Guests have the best possible journey.”

Researchers attached to DARTeC are already working with industry on projects to reimagine what airports and airlines look like post-COVID-19, and driving forward innovations in digital airspace and airport infrastructure that will help the UK reach its target of net zero carbon emissions.

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

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’.