Under the auspices of the European programme for fostering innovation in aeronautics, Crouzet and Safran Electronics & Defense have joined forces to develop a new mini-control grip adapted to meet the future expectations of both fixed and rotorcraft pilots.
Innovate, integrate, industrialize… And then start all over again! Crouzet’s pursuit of increasingly innovative aeronautical solutions is a never-ending quest. The Goal? Providing pilots with cockpit elements and piloting tools that render their aircraft more responsive and safer. One recent example is the joint innovation project between Safran Electronics & Defense and Crouzet under the Clean Sky 2 8th Call for Proposals. Co-funded by major European companies and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program, this initiative aims to support the emergence of innovations affording a greener, leaner and more efficient future to the aeronautics industry.
Clean Sky 2 actor Safran Electronics & Defense opted for this programme as a mechanism to outsource part of the development of its Active Side Stick. A new control grip concept conceived to simplify the workload of civil aircraft and helicopter pilots and thus improve safety, while also offering new, more relevant and intuitive functions. This marked the first steps in an auspicious collaboration with the Crouzet team. “Clean Sky 2 is a particularly unique tender process because it is open to all European companies. As project leader, we submit the technical and economic specifications. European Commission experts then examine the submitted proposals, albeit anonymously for us, and select a winner. We can use this mechanism to work with new partners in a more collaborative and open mindset“, says Philippe Bezivin, R&T Program Manager at Safran Electronics & Defense.
A technology demonstrator
After careful deliberation, European experts chose Crouzet to develop the next-generation grip for Safran Electronics & Defense’s future Active Side Stick. Its challenge? Conceiving technical solutions that meet the functional requirements set by the Safran Electronics & Defense teams for this new model. “We responded to this call for proposals knowing that it would serve as a technology demonstrator. In other words, a full-on research and technology project“, explains Olivier Clozeau, Advanced R&D Manager at Crouzet. This means that our new grip cannot be based on traditional technologies. Instead, it should contemplate highly innovative solutions“.
In line with this approach, Crouzet’s teams have, for instance, opted to integrate buttons based on electronics rather than mechanical technology. These systems are far easier to replace and reconnect than conventional ones. This is a significant time-saver for maintenance crews on future equipment. Another significant advantage of the future grip: it will be capable of detecting the touch of the pilot’s hand, rendering even greater efficiency during certain delicate phases of piloting. Crouzet also emerged as a standout in the eyes of the European Commission’s experts and Safran Electronics & Defense teams for solutions to reduce the weight and enhance the reliability of the Active Side Stick.
Initial integrations in 2022
Originally slated for two years, the joint project between Safran Electronics & Defense and Crouzet has been extended to 32 months, due to the uncertainties surrounding the health crisis (COVID-19). These challenges did not dampen the motivation of either partner in any way. “We are currently developing our demonstrator and will have completed the necessary tests to deliver our prototype to Safran Electronics & Defense by November 2021“, announced Olivier Clozeau. The grip will then be integrated with other sub-assemblies of the Active Side Stick to embark on a long journey of tests and trials that should last throughout 2022.
Both partners are already responding to requests from potential customers for future commercial applications of their joint innovation well ahead of that date. “We firmly believe that this new equipment will help pilots gain a better understanding of their aircraft’s behaviour in an incident, thus assisting them to make the right decisions”, says Philippe Bezivin. The Active Side Stick will be a major tool for improving flight safety in the future. It should therefore naturally arouse the interest of all the major players in the aeronautics industry. “And thus symbolize the permanent innovation capacity of Safran Electronics & Defense and Crouzet in the international marketplace.
About Clean Sky 2 :
- Budget: €4 billion
- 30 countries
- 156 universities
- 363 SMEs and 310 leading manufacturers
- 550 contracts
What they say
Philippe Bezivin, R&T Program Manager at Safran Electronics & Defense
“Of course, this partnership project has brought us a high-quality technological response for our Active Side Stick. That said, beyond the technical aspect, I also remember the excellent spirit shared by the teams at Crouzet and Safran Electronics & Defense. Everyone worked closely together and in full transparency. That will forever remain a lasting memory of this project”.
Olivier Clozeau, Advanced R&D Manager at Crouzet
“We had wanted to start developing these new grip technologies for several years. And this European project has given us a chance to take action. In cooperation with Safran Electronics & Defense, we first drew up the technical outline of the future solution. It was then entirely up to us to develop, implement and then make sure that they work”.
This project has received funding from the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 831841. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the Clean Sky 2 JU members other than the Union