New aeronautical centre sends research skyward
The pioneering spirit of two great Australian aviators lives on in a new research endeavour that is taking to the skies.
The universities of Adelaide and Flinders have joined forces to create the Centre for Aeronautical Research and Education (CARE).
Based at Parafield Airport north of Adelaide, and involving a working high-altitude research aircraft, the new centre brings together the combined strengths of the two universities in aerospace engineering and atmospheric science.
As a major vote of confidence in the collaborative centre, CARE has been established with funding from the Sir Keith & Sir Ross Smith Fund. Named after the two pioneering South Australian aviators, who in 1919 flew a Vickers Vimy biplane from London to Darwin in less than 28 days, the fund aims to advance the science and education of aeronautics in South Australia.
"When Lady Anita Smith bequeathed her estate to the establishment of the Sir Ross & Sir Keith Smith Fund, her vision encompassed all aspects of human transportation through the air and in space," said Dr Gerald Schneider, who jointly heads the new centre with Associate Professor Jörg Hacker.
"That vision will be well reflected in the work of our new centre, which involves students and staff in a wide range of research and educational activities spanning aeronautical and aerospace engineering, physics and atmospheric sciences."
Dr Hacker is Chief Scientist and Managing Director of the highly regarded Airborne Research Australia (ARA) at Flinders University, while Dr Schneider is Sir Keith and Sir Ross Smith senior lecturer in the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Adelaide and head of the University's Aerospace Engineering degree.
Both men are highly experienced in their respective fields and also share a love of aircraft, aviation and flying. Prof Hacker and Dr. Schneider are both seasoned pilots.
With a high-altitude research aircraft dedicated to the centre, CARE offers a unique, hands-on experience for students of both universities.
Dr Hacker described the collaboration as an important step forward for education and research in South Australia.
"For many years ARA has had a strong reputation in atmospheric sciences, and it has provided many students with unique educational opportunities," Dr Hacker said.
"This new centre creates an interface between aerospace engineering and the atmospheric sciences, which means both fields of study will benefit from the collaboration."
Potential activities of the new centre include:
- microgravity flight experiments - using the aircraft in free-fall to create a near zero-gravity environment for a few seconds, simulating conditions in space;
- a "flying wind tunnel" - instead of using laboratory-based wind tunnels, attaching instrumentation and models to the aircraft and flying them through real-life turbulence conditions;
- alternative-powered aircraft - investigating ways of flying aircraft with as little fuel as possible, or no fuel at all.
"We will have a strong student base, which means we will be able to get a lot of student involvement in research projects," Dr Schneider said.
Dr Schneider said students in the University of Adelaide's Aerospace Engineering degree would directly benefit from the experience of working with CARE.
"In addition to the benefits for undergraduate students, the funding we have received will also support a postgraduate scholarship," he said.
CARE is receiving $450,000 over three years from the Sir Keith & Sir Ross Smith Fund, and also hopes to attract further research and consultancy funding from non-government sources.
"Our funding is 100% external to both universities, which is a tall order. But this new centre is reaching for great heights," Dr Hacker said.
Story by David Ellis