This project has received funding from the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking, within the framework of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 886754.
Interview with Dr. Óscar Gonzalo, Project Manager of Weibal

Interview with Oscar Gonzalo (Project Manager – Tekniker)

What is the experience of the consortium in the aeronautic sector and in Clean Sky?

Tekniker has been working for the Aeronautic sector for several years, in both European funded projects and industrial projects, mainly dealing with project related to manufacturing and testing. In Clean Sky, Tekniker has participated in 14 projects, coordinating 12 of them. So, from the administrative and management point of view, Tekniker has the experience to perform the project in a suitable way.

From the technical point of view, Tekniker has experience in several technologies that can be applied to aeronautic sector applications like manufacturing technologies, mechatronic solutions, sensor technologies, etc. In this sense, WEIBAL is a project that compiles several known technologies for Tekniker. These technologies must be adapted requiring development activities, and they will be complemented with other technologies that are provided by another partner of the project, Dibal.

What is your responsibility as the WEIBAL project’s coordinator?

From the management point of view, the main responsibility is the coordination of the activities of the different partners controlling that the tasks are completed on time, also maintaining the communication with the Topic Manager (Leonardo Spa) to perform the project in a suitable way for the Clean Sky 2 objectives. And from the technical point of view, I ensure that the global approach of the project and the integration of the different parts are suitable, also contributing to the development of some technological developments dealing with the mechanical configuration of the machine, the definition of the measurement process or the development of the algorithms for the treatment of the information.

What is the main aim of the WEIBAL project?

The WEIBAL project focuses on the development of a system able to provide information about the weight and position of the centre of gravity of the aircraft in order to obtain information to achieve a better performance during use, leading to the improvement of the behaviour of the vehicle and its efficiency.

The main objective of the project is the development of the measurement system able to measure the aircraft weight, the position of the Centre of Gravity (CoG) and the attitude of the aircraft (pitch and roll angles). To achieve this objective several subsystems must be developed including the scales with sensors to obtain suitable information about the weight, a photogrammetry system to measure the position and attitude of the aircraft, a mechatronic system to move the aircraft, the software that manages the information from the sensors and automation system for the measurement process.

How many countries are participating?

The companies involved in this project are from two countries: Spain and Italy. From Spain, Tekniker and Dibal are the partners of the project in charge of the whole development. While from Italy, Leonardo is the Topic Manager and they are in charge of the establishment of the requirements and specification to adapt the project results to the needs within the Clean Sky 2 program.

What would be the major achievement you would like to reach with this research project?

From the beginning, we think that the technological objectives of the project will be achieved through the integration of different technologies. So, the main expectation is to achieve a fully functional prototype with a high TRL, leading to a future commercialization of the WEIBAL system. Each of the technologies involves has already been used and they ae well-known for the project partners, but the integration of the technologies and the precision required in the measurement become a challenge to achieve that functional prototype.

How can a normal citizen see the impact of the project?

From a social point of view, the impact is indirect, and it cannot be easily perceived by the citizens as users of aircrafts. Indirectly, the main benefit would be a smoother and more comfortable flight, and a lower environmental impact of the air transport. The WEIBAL system would allow a better knowledge of the aircraft characteristic leading to a better definition of the working conditions of the engines and the manoeuvres during use, that finally results in a better experience for the passenger and lower pollution emissions.

Why research collaborations are essential in this project?

There are several technological fields involved in the development of the WEIBAL solution, those are better covered by different partners with advanced expertise on them, leading to a more efficient use of resources and a faster development. The challenge of the project is to achieve a good collaboration to integrate those technologies in a single system successfully.

Is EU funding important for European research? How has it contributed to WEIBAL success?

Of course. The EU funds help to develop projects that otherwise would find problems to obtain the required investment as they involve intensive development. The projects normally achieve tested prototypes that need further investment for industrialization and exploitation. In this sense, WEIBAL is not different and the stages of proof of concept, components validation and testing of the prototypes can be performed in the Clean Sky 2 program scope. This leaves the prototypes in a good position for further development and industrialization as many uncertainties about the technology are solved during the project.

Is the WEIBAL project related to Circular Economy?

No. Circular economy is currently a trending topic, but unfortunately WEIBAL project does not contribute directly to it. The reduction of the use of resources and of the creation of waste and pollutant emissions are some aspect that could be improved using the WEIBAL system during the service life of the aircraft, but the project does not contribute to this through the reuse or recycling of resources through the entire life cycle of the aircraft.

Tekniker´s commitment to a weight and balance measurement system for tiltrotor aircraft in its new project WEIBAL

Tekniker’s commitment to a weight and balance measurement system for tiltrotor aircraft in its new project WEIBAL

Development of weight and balance measurement systems for tiltrotor aircraft tiltrotors

Tekniker and Dibal collaborate together in the development of this project which started in 2020

The  technology centre Tekniker is starting to develop its WEIBAL project, a system for measuring the weight and balance of tiltrotor aircraft -aircraft that operate by propulsion through motorised rotors in helicopter and conventional aircraft configurations-. This initiative has the collaboration of Dibal (experts in weighing and labelling solutions in the retail and industrial sector). The two companies are working together to develop a more accurate assessment of aircraft weight and balance in order to estimate the position of the centre of gravity (GoG) in three-dimensional space. The project, in turn, will contribute to the reduction of drag force, fuel consumption and atmospheric CO2 emissions, among other advantages, thanks to the use of the information obtained to establish flight strategies and the optimal mode of use of the engines, mainly in helicopter mode, which is more sensitive to possible deviations.

Both, the involvement and constant technological improvement and the commitment to investment in R&D&I (research, development and innovation) have made Dibal the leading brand in Spain in the retail scales market. Together with Tekniker, it will develop manufacturing processes such as ecological machining, flexible reproduction lines and robotic and industrial automation with the aim of rowing towards a more sustainable aeronautical industry.

Sustainability and improved mobility

Among the main objectives of WEIBAL is the reduction of noise pollution thanks to its improved mobility and agility in flight. This factor will allow energy savings and low fuel consumption and gas and CO2 emissions, among numerous improvements that will help to safety, preservation and care of the environment.

On the other hand, the project will bring great benefits in the mobility of the aircraft, such as the ability to land on uneven surfaces that are not prepared or even have obstacles nearby. All of this will facilitate rescue work in loading and unloading victims in flight, especially on short-range routes.

The use of a high level of technology through Industry 4.0 technologies to achieve efficient design, development of new materials, customised equipment and a sustainable future aeronautical sector are the main factors that define the importance of the project. With this, it is expected to obtain an improvement in manoeuvring productivity, the development of an integrated and precise design through intelligent manufacturing systems.

Between European borders

With regard to its European presence and involvement, it will contribute to the development of a European commercial tiltrotor aircraft in the shortest possible time. This is expected to help the European Union’s leadership position. It turns out that, despite their many advantages, tiltrotors are currently not certified for use in the civil sector. In fact, only one model is available in the military sector, which is why projects such as WEIBAL are so necessary to help generate advanced technical knowledge for optimised aircraft design and development of balance and weight systems.

WEIBAL is a project in collaboration with Clean Sky 2 – the largest European research programme funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 project. The project will run until March 2023 and has a grant of 799,714.29 €.