University of Lincoln Research Showcase: Helicopters and Warships

September 8, 2019

Landing a helicopter to a ship in bad weather
is one of the most difficult tasks a pilot can undertake. I’m Ieuan Owen. I’m Deputy Vice Chancellor
here at the University, but I’m also a member of the School of Engineering. Imagine this ship on a windy day out at sea. It’ll be rolling, pitching, heaving. The deck might be moving five, six meters. In addition, we’ve got the helicopter which
will be coming in to land onto the back of the ship. The helicopter itself will be moving around
by the same sort of scale. So for the pilot to land this aircraft on
that ship is a very difficult task. Warships have never been designed
with the helicopter in mind, other than to put the deck at the back of the ship,
which is probably the worst place to put it. The helicopter is the most potent system on
the ship, but if it can’t take off, it can’t be used. No ship has ever been aerodynamically designed,
and that’s now what we’re starting to do. We’re looking ahead to the next generation
of ships to say, ‘If the ship does have to have these tactical systems on board, Are they in the right place? Are they the
right shape? Can they be designed in such a way as they reduce the aerodynamic impact of the
ship on the helicopter?’ So I’ve been working on this for
about twelve years now. It initially started with some enquiries from
the Ministry of Defence about flight simulation: ‘Can we improve the reality of flight simulation
for helicopters landing on to ships?’ So since then we’ve worked with the Ministry
of Defence, I’ve worked with colleagues at the University of Liverpool, I’ve had aerodynamic data from the National
Research Council in Canada, and from the Ministry of Defence. We’ve worked with BAE Systems, and we’ve worked
with flight simulation companies. On the way through the research, we’ve created
a flight simulation environment to improve reality, so when the pilot sits in the simulator and
flies to that ship, it feels more realistic, because the air is impacting on the helicopter
in the way that it should do. One of the most fundamental findings we’ve
had is the way that the unsteady airflow impacts on the helicopter. And the most significant finding we’ve produced
from there is how to redesign the ship so it is more benign, provides a more benign environment,
for the helicopter. So right now we are providing design guidance
to the next generation of combat ships.

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