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Prospero flies high during world’s first public flight

Prospero flies high during world’s first public flight  Banner Image

Prospero ready for take-off

Graphene skinned unmanned aircraft is showcased at Farnborough Air Show

The world’s first public flights of a specialist unmanned aircraft have been hailed as a “tremendous success” by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) creators.

Prospero, a three metre wide aircraft which is part constructed using a graphene enhanced carbon fibre material, was unveiled at the 2016 Farnborough Air Show and it attracted the attention of major names within the aviation industry.

Billy Beggs, UCLan’s Engineering Innovation Manager, said: “It was a tremendous success for us to showcase our work at Farnborough. The flights went really well and we made so many contacts with people who are interested in finding out more and working with us. We’re talking big names in aviation.”

The aircraft took to the skies three times during the world-famous event, which attracted more than 90,000 spectators. It was the first aircraft to feature in the aerial demonstration sessions and the pilot executed planned routines, between four and seven minutes long, which had been approved by the airshow’s flight operations team.

Prospero flies like a training aircraft. It’s stable to handle, lighter, more aerodynamic and floats along without too much drag unlike other non-graphene aerial vehicles which are often twitchy and heavy.

It was piloted by David Ringland, the former head of flight testing for unmanned aircraft at BAE Systems. He said: “Prospero flies like a training aircraft. It’s stable to handle, lighter, more aerodynamic and floats along without too much drag unlike other non-graphene aerial vehicles which are often twitchy and heavy.”

The aircraft is a collaboration between UCLan aerospace experts and academics from The University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute (NGI). The graphene enhanced materials were produced by industrial partners Haydale Composite Solutions and the vehicle was manufactured by Tasuma.

Dr Darren Ansell, UCLan’s Space and Aerospace Engineering Lead, said: “These flights were a great showcase for us. We’re now going to look at working with more SMEs throughout the North West, in addition to the larger companies, to see how we can progress exploitation of graphene in aerospace.

“It has also raised the profile of our engineering degree courses. For example, we had industry people enquiring about enrolling on our courses part-time alongside their work activities to enhance their aerospace engineering skills.”


Pilot David Ringland with Billy Beggs with Prospero after one of the successful flights.

It has also raised the profile of our engineering degree courses. For example, we had industry people enquiring about enrolling on our courses part-time alongside their work activities to enhance their aerospace engineering skills.

The test flights represented the next stage in the research partnership which last year investigated the effects of graphene in drag reduction, thermal management and ultimately the ability to achieve lightning strike protection for aerospace and other related opportunities.

The NGI opened in March 2015 and has 50 industrial partners working on collaborative projects to develop graphene applications of the future.

Billy added: “Thirty years ago I went to Farnborough with what is now the Typhoon jet and look at how that’s developed, we have now taken Prospero so who knows where this will lead.”

To see Prospero in action visit the Farnborough Air Show YouTube site

Rachel Atkinson | 02 September 2016