The IntelligentEngine vision is continuing to make strong progress across the Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace portfolio of products and services, supercharged by the power of digital technology.

This opens up new opportunities to pioneer the way Rolls-Royce provides power to customers, with engines and electrical systems that are increasingly connected, contextually aware and comprehending – more intelligent.

Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, President – Civil Aerospace, said: “We launched our IntelligentEngine vision last year at Singapore Airshow, and it is a concept that is moving forward at pace right through our business. We are bringing the power of digital to shape everything we do in design, test, production and services. Developments like these are ensuring that we make the IntelligentEngine deliver further benefits for customers.”

The IntelligentEngine philosophy permeates every aspect of the Rolls-Royce business but there are key projects that really bring this concept to life:

Successful tests mark further UltraFan® progress
Testing at ITP Aero in Biscay, Spain, is another key element of the Rolls-Royce UltraFan engine design evolution. The multi-stage intermediate pressure turbine (IPT) has completed an aerodynamic test to verify functional characteristics and design methodologies. The successful test results represent a key technology enabler for the IPT, which is designed to run at very high speeds to optimise the new engine architecture.

UltraFan has been created using the latest digital technology for design and production, enabling engineers to analyse millions of data points on test. Ground tests of the engine in the new facility will start in 2021.

World’s largest testbed being prepared to take IntelligentEngine further
Rolls-Royce is building the world’s largest indoor testbed at Derby, UK, which will be commissioned in 2020. This impressive facility will be a test base for UltraFan®, a new engine design that will be 25 per cent more fuel efficient than the first generation of Trent. The internal walls are now completed and the roof is now being cast.

The £90m facility, with an internal area of 7,500 square metres, will harness the latest digital technology to set conditions and obtain evidence from a wide variety of test activities and will benefit from the latest advances in x-ray equipment – so powerful it could x-ray a person standing six miles away.

E-Fan X
In Trondheim, Norway, Rolls-Royce is in the final stages of preparing a bespoke testbed for the first run of a 2.5MW, 15000 RPM, generator and 3kV power electronics that will power the E-Fan X demonstrator aircraft.

Rolls-Royce is in partnership with Airbus on the E-Fan X technology demonstrator project, which is an important stepping stone towards hybrid electric commercial aircraft at the scale of today’s single aisle family.

The hybrid-electric flying demonstrator involves removing a single engine from an Avro RJ100 aircraft (a 100-seater regional jet) and replacing it with a Hybrid-Electric Propulsion System, consisting of 2MW Electric Propulsion Unit under the wing, powered by a gas turbine (AE2100) driven 2.5MW generator and a battery system. The project is co-funded by ATI UK and Clean Sky 2.

Digital collaboration with Singapore Airlines
Rolls-Royce and Singapore Airlines have signed a co-innovation agreement that builds on the existing relationship between the two firms to establish a globally-connected platform allowing collaboration on digital solutions. This open platform will also facilitate industry peers and partners to securely collaborate on the development of digital solutions for the industry. The agreement is driven on behalf of Rolls-Royce by R2 Data Labs, an innovation catalyst inside the company that exists to deliver untapped value from data.

Rise of the robots continues
Robotic technologies provide the opportunity to improve how engine services are delivered, for example by speeding up inspection processes, or by removing the need to take an engine off an aircraft to perform maintenance.

Rolls-Royce is continuing to develop SWARM robots, a set of camera-carrying collaborative miniature devices that crawl through an engine to provide a visual inspection of hard-to-reach areas that is live-streamed back to the operator. The programme, a partnership with Harvard University and the University of Nottingham, has now confirmed that the robots can crawl upside down on an engine component.

Snake robot programmes are also making great progress. The FLARE programme involves a pair of snake robots travelling through the engine like an endoscope before carrying out patch repairs to damaged thermal barrier coatings, without having to take the engine off wing. This year, engineers have set a world first, successfully testing a material addition repair technology on a real engine in a laboratory for the first time. The programme is a partnership with the University of Nottingham and Metallisation.

Another snake project – COBRA – allows engineers to “drive” a five-metre-long snake into an engine from a remote location, avoiding the need for them to be physically sent to the site, to carry out repairs. A full system concept demonstration is planned for 2020. The programme is a partnership with Atomic Energy Authority (Remote Apprlications in Challenging Environments), OpTek Systems and the University of Nottingham.

Virtual Reality training starts up with Qatar Airways
In another application of the IntelligentEngine vision, Rolls-Royce and Qatar Airways used Virtual Reality to train engineers – a first for the two companies.

The training immerses engineers in the process of separating a Trent XWB engine, using sight, sound and touch, without Qatar Airways providing a physical engine, or Rolls-Royce transporting an engine to Doha.