The Indian students, presently studying in Bengaluru, Netherlands, US and London, formed a team and jointly created the world’s first airplane that generates its own power by the vibration of its wings.
The team will now go to Germany to make their case for the top prize to Airbus’ competition “Fly Your Ideas”. The winners would be announced on May 27 and the winning team will win a 30,000 euro jackpot.
“There is a natural vibration that exists in every aircraft when it flies during which energy is generated. At present this energy goes wasted. We intend to harvest the energy from those vibrations which will be sufficient enough to power inflight operations like lighting and on board entertainment,” Team leader Sathiskumar Anusuya Ponnusami from Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) told Times of India.
The team foresees a future in which wings of an aircraft can be dressed in a composite skin that harvests energy from natural vibrations or flex in the wings.
The team makes use of piezoelectric fibres that gather electrical charges from even the smallest movements during flight, storing the energy generated in battery panels integrated in the fuselage and using it to power auxiliary in-flight systems.
This reduces the energy footprint of aircraft during flight and could even replace the entire power source for ground operations.
“Also we convert the body of the aircraft into a gigantic battery. On an average the plane needs to fly for about 12 hours to have enough energy. So the idea will cater to long haul flights. At present, for taxing, the airplane keeps both its main engines running which is a total waste. Instead the plane can use the energy it saved up through the vibration during flight time,” said Ponnusami, who calls his team “Multifun” due to multiple factors that bring the team and their idea together.
He told the news daily that though they were from India, they spoke different languages. They have been working on the project for the past half year.
The team includes Dhamotharan Veerasamy from City University London, Shashank Agrawal and Ajith Moses from Indian Institute of Science (IIS), Bengaluru and Mohit Gupta from Georgia Institute of Technology (USA). They all met while studying at IISc’s NM Cad Lab of the aerospace engineering department.
The Indian team is among the five finalists and their ideas include creating drones to keep birds away from airports and guide them to an artificial safe environment nearby, video game-style sensors to guide planes when taxiing, an automatic on-board recycling trolley and wireless power transmitters around the airport that use energy from the moving aircraft to power ground operations.
Five hundred and eighteen teams representing 3,700 students from 104 countries submitted projects by December 2014. Around 100 teams were selected for round two