CAE blends computer modeling, simulators for better integration

Farnborough Air Show » 2010
July 17, 2010, 4:43 AM

While best known for its comprehensive aviation training courses and its lineup of flight simulation devices, CAE has moved further upstream into the aircraft design process with new modeling and simulator products. The Canada-based company’s augmented engineering environment (AEE) is a suite of software and hardware products that will assist aircraft manufacturers with the design and systems integration of prototypes.

AAE is currently seeing its first full operation in support of the design of Bombardier’s new C Series airliner, which is expected to enter service in 2013 with launch customer Lufthansa. Bombardier signed a seven-year contract with CAE last year as part of its complete integrated aircraft systems test area (CIASTA) program, which should take it through the design phase to initial training and two-years past the C Series’ entry into service.

In creating the system, CAE has leveraged its computer modeling and simulator experience into a customizable hardware and software integration backbone that can develop along with the aircraft design from concept through series production. The system consists of four work packages that are presented to the customer at predetermined steps in the design process. The first step, delivered last winter to the Canadian airframer, was a computer cluster loaded with the software needed to simulate the aircraft design in a virtual environment.

The AEE is aimed primarily at systems function and integration and is viewed by its creators as a complement to computer solid modeling platforms such as Dassault’s CATIA. “System integration is a discipline that does not enjoy the same kind of progress as structural design with CATIA,” said Marc St-Hilaire, CAE’s vice president of core engineering. “It does not enjoy the same type of progress as aerodynamic design with a super computer. System design is still very conventional; requirements on paper, flowing them down to a supplier managing the interface and then testing the design very close to aircraft integration.

I see simulating the requirements and animating the design very early into the program to validate your system design, for sure is going to have a benefit.”

The second work package to be delivered next spring to Bombardier is an engineering simulator with a cockpit. “Some of the OEMs want an animated cockpit quite early in their design process,” said St-Hilaire. “We supply them with that cockpit, which is reconfigurable, and that cockpit is driven by a software suite on the computer cluster.” At that point in the development, the engineering simulator can also communicate with actual avionics components. “It’s got the ability to interface between the virtual world and the real world,” St-Hilaire told AIN. “From that simulation environment you can drive real push buttons, you can drive real screens, you can even talk to real aircraft boxes.”

The third work package, to be delivered next year, consists of an integrated systems test and certification rig and software to test the flight controls. The final delivery to Bombardier in 2013 will be the CAE Series 7000 full flight simulator, which |the company will initially use in its flight test program for cockpit operational evaluations and other tests, including wind shear certification.

One of the system’s major functionalities lies in its ability to enable designers to create virtual cockpit control panels and displays early in the development phase, before any metal is cut. “You can construct this whole virtual cockpit on touch-screen panels and you can modify those virtual panels within minutes. Then you can hook up those panels back to the simulation immediately,” noted St-Hilaire.

In addition to the CIASTA contract with Bombardier, CAE has also signed a similar agreement with the Indian National Aerospace Laboratory to develop and refine the avionics configuration for the RTA 70 turboprop. The engineering simulator will be used for cockpit configuration and avionics equipment studies, as well as to explore the effects of human factors. The company also supplied engineering simulators to Embraer for use in developing the fly-by-wire control systems for the E-170 and E-175 regional jetliners, and to the Korean National Aerospace Laboratory to help define the flying characteristics of a new helicopter.    

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