Aerospace case study: Merlin Flight Simulator Suite

Swansea University’s new Science and Innovation Bay Campus will house the new aerospace engineering facilities in the Swansea Bay Innovation Hub. The Swansea Bay Innovation Hub, along with the Engineering Manufacturing Centre, has been part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

Flight simulatorThe aerospace engineering facilities will include an upgraded Merlin Flight Simulator Capsule MP521, two MP500-2 Flight Simulators, and Merlin’s updated Excalibur flight software package.

Flight simulators are among the most sophisticated software systems in existence. A flight simulator artificially re-creates aircraft flight and the environment in which it flies for pilot training, the design and development of aircraft, and for research into aircraft characteristics and control handling qualities.

The College of Engineering’s suite of simulators can replicate a variety of conditions, including the equations that govern how aircraft fly, how they react to applications of flight controls, the effects of other aircraft systems, and how the aircraft reacts to external factors such as air density, turbulence, wind shear, cloud, and precipitation.

EU logoMerlin Flight Simulator MP521

The Merlin Flight Simulator was designed to teach the subjective aspects of flight. It is also used in all aspects of aircraft design, from stability and control evaluation, to cockpit ergonomics, systems engineering and avionics.

The MP521 simulator includes:

  • A capsule module
  • Six axis hydraulic micro motion system from Bosch Rexroth
  • Two 17” LCDs for the main instrument panel
  • One 8” touch for ancillary controls
  • Flight controls
  • Visual display comprising three 19” screens
  • Sidestick
  • Throttles
  • Rudder panels

2x MP5200-2s – Developmental Stations

The MP500-2 UAV simulation development and control stations can be used as simulators in their own right. The latest upgrade has been designed with a cockpit style cover, to mimic conditions within an aircraft. They also provide a simulation which can be integrated with an MP521 engineering Flight Simulator within an aerospace laboratory, and used for interactive flight.

The MP500-2s can be used by researchers looking to investigate control and stability of UAV designs, ranging from scaled up portable drones to full size autonomous vehicles.

When integrated with Merlin's MPATC Air Traffic Control simulation station, and MP521 Engineering Flight Simulator, the MP500-2s can be used for research into piloting uninhabited air vehicles in a mixed manned/ unmanned air traffic environment.

Excalibur

Merlin's unique flight software, Excalibur, is a fully non-linear transonic, real time six degrees of freedom aerodynamic application. Excalibur enables novel or existing designs to be created for the following types of aircraft:

  • Single and multi-engine piston and turbo prop aircraft
  • Single and multi-engine jet and turbo fan aircraft
  • Gliders
  • Fixed wing V/STOL
  • Rotary wing aircraft with up to four rotors - and auto gyros
  • Aerostats (airships and balloons)
  • Low earth orbit vehicles (horizontal or 'vertical' in take-off)

Excalibur enables researchers to 'flight test' novel designs to assess performance, and achievement of design objectives in complete safety. The designs may be realised using the Excalibur data editor, without the need to write computer code, using geometric design data produced in the aircraft course design process.

Jane Wallace, Senior Technician said “This upgrade will allow more “hands on” time for all aerospace students, thus enabling the research and development of experimental aircraft to the maximum potential.”

Dr Greg Coss, Project Manager for the Swansea Bay Innovation Hub said “Swansea University has proved itself to be a leading institution within aerospace research. The upgrade of the flight simulator suite will enable the College of Engineering to develop new aerospace R&D collaborations with industry partners.”