Dear Readers,

The aerospace sector remains a key industry in Europe. Only recently, the 9,000th Airbus was handed over to its customer and aerospace sales have risen 40% over the last 5 years.

The aerospace sector remains a key industry in Europe. Only recently, the 9,000th Airbus was handed over to its customer and aerospace sales have risen 40% over the last 5 years.

Following the introduction of weight-saving composite fiber construction, not only in space travel but also in airborne transportation and general aviation, the technological focus in the decades to come will lie in the development of ground-breaking drive systems. We are already seeing electric and hybrid electric engines entering research for use in powered gliders and small passenger aircraft, for example with the e-Genius electric airplane at Stuttgart University, the E-Fan project at Airbus, and the Pipistel ALPHA Trainer. Airbus and Rolls-Royce are also looking into distributed aerospace propulsion concepts for large cargo aircraft. These involve combining a turbo generator with storage cells to generate power for several electric motors distributed throughout the aircraft. With this approach, it’s possible to make a clear distinction between power generation and thrust generation, also unveiling completely new and efficient ways to configure airplanes. Digitalization in the cockpit and digital networks are also continuing to make advancements.

Another important trend for the future will be unmanned aircraft systems (RPAS), which will be used on observation, surveying, and surveillance missions. Powered by sunlight, high-altitude platforms (HAPs) will soon be taking on the role of satellites at heights of 20 to 25 kilometers. The technical conditions have already been fulfilled to do this but the regulatory authorities are still establishing a statutory framework for flying in unreserved airspace and this should be ready by 2020. There are opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to innovate in this area, also as system suppliers to the aerospace industry.

In the field of space travel, satellite technology is having a stronger and stronger influence on commercial success and societal development, and it is now irreplaceable in environmental protection. As a result, development of the Galileo satellite navigation system and further development of satellite technologies used in communication, terrestrial observation, and environment monitoring are a key priority in the EU. Further development of the ARIANE launch system is allowing for significantly reduced launch costs and this continues to safeguard our ability to fly into space independently and competitively. Spectacular European space missions like Rosetta have made a significant contribution to how we see our own planetary system and space in general, and they will continue to play an important role in proving and developing physical models.

Steinbeis has created an efficient infrastructure with its Steinbeis Enterprise model, directly helping to transfer the results of technology research into industry. The Steinbeis Aircraft and Leightweight Construction GmbH (SFL) provides comprehensive en-gineering services based on over 20 years of experience, working with clients on everything from initial concepts to aircraft that are ready for takeoff, and even aviation approvals. Our strengths lie in our multidisciplinary approach to overall systems. Our small and creative team is highly skilled and specialized, and has the competence to develop complete airplanes in the CS 22, CS 23, and LSA categories, as well as unmanned aircraft. SFL shows that technology transfer really does have a role to play in supporting and engendering research at a university level, especially as far as RPAS and the e-Genius aircraft are concerned. Without the experience and input of SFL, these would not have been possible in the way they are now. Which is where I’d like to explain a guiding principle, namely that technology transfer is not a one-way street. 

In this latest edition of TRANSFER, we provide insights into the projects, services, and products being worked on in the Steinbeis Network in the aerospace industry. I hope you find it an interesting read!

Prof. Rudolf Voit-Nitschmann


Prof. Rudolf Voit-Nitschmann is managing director of the aircraft maker Steinbeis Flugzeug- und Leichtbau GmbH and heads the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Aerodynamics, Aircraft Engineering and Lightweight Construction in Stuttgart. Voit-Nitschmann was awarded the Löhn Award – the Steinbeis Foundation’s Transfer Prize – in 2011, in recognition of outstanding contributions to technology transfer.

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