Pune: Williams Advanced Engineering, which propelled careers of Formula One legends Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and others, is set to add its wealth of experience and use the Formula One-inspired technology in helping Airbus innovate its aerospace programme.
Williams may have been lagging behind the current F1 leaders - Ferrari and Mercedes -but its reputable engineering team under Frank Williams crossed a major milestone when European aviation major signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together and share the wealth of Williams’ experience, in the area of aerospace.
Williams, the third most successful Formula One team after Ferrari and McLaren, is the sole battery supplier to the FIA Formula E championship since its inception and that is the area where Airbus has shown interest.
Williams Advanced Engineering's battery technology had been tried and tested, and its expertise in electrification has become core to the business. This edge has given Williams a chance to work with Airbus to build a super lightweight drone that can fly at extremely high altitudes. The two companies will examine ways to combine Williams' lightweight composites and battery expertise with Airbus' Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) programme.
Zephyr would be a record-breaking, solar-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) with unique communications and surveillance capabilities.
Williams' most recent developments have included an innovative take on using recycled carbon fibre to manufacture components that can be 40 per cent lighter than current alternatives.
“Airbus is a name synonymous with innovation and technology. We are delighted to be working with them on this project, and hope to share some of our expertise in electrification, battery systems and advanced lightweight materials, as well as learn from their vast experience in aerospace. We are very much looking forward to working together on this project and hope the learnings from one another may continue in the future,” Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering, said during the signing ceremony that was live streamed by Williams for Formula One accredited media.
“At Airbus, we have enormous respect for Williams Advanced Engineering’s technical expertise and achievements, as well as for their impressive record in rapidly bringing new technologies and products to market. Our engineering teams are thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from the Formula 1 world and just as enthusiastic about sharing what we have learned in developing solutions to high-altitude, solar-powered flight,” said Airbus Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems, Jana Rosenmann.
What is Zephyr
The proposed unmanned drone would fly at more than 65,000 ft (20-km), above commercial air traffic - which typically flies at about 39,000ft - for months at a time. The first production examples are being built at Farnborough for the British Ministry of Defence.
With four decades of experience at the pinnacle of motor racing, where lightweight materials and structures are crucial, Williams is now developing these technologies and finding innovative solutions to weight saving.