Almost 200 people enjoyed an afternoon of aerospace innovation in early June as Cranfield University hosted the East of England Innovation Expo to mark the 150th anniversary of the Society. Organised by five of the RAeS Branches from the Anglian region (Cambridge, Cranfield, Stevenage, Hatfield and Bedford) the event heard from speakers from business and academic sectors talking about the three key themes of Structures and Materials, Autonomous Systems and Aerodynamics. The primary objective of the event was to stimulate and enthuse graduate engineers in their early carriers and students looking to the future; and this objective was certainly met.

The space sector was a focus of a number of presentations, with speakers discussing the challenges of additive manufacturing for space applications (Amy Briggs from Airbus Defence and Space), to Abbie Hutty talking about Airbus’s ExoMars Rover programme and the development of an autonomous rover which will search for evidence of life beneath the surface of the red planet.  In the structures and materials section there was presentations focusing on light-weighting composites and adhesives (Karthik Selvaraj, TWI) and the future of nanotechnology in the aerospace industry (Dr Michael de Volder, University of Cambridge).  Professor Bill Bardo from University College London gave an overview of future challenges in autonomous systems, highlighting the challenge of achieving trust between humans and machines and answering questions about ethics around autonomous vehicles.  In the last session Dougie Hunter (Aircraft Research Association) explained the innovations and challenges of meeting customer expectations when running the largest wind tunnel in the UK and the aerodynamics session closed with a presentation around advanced automotive aerodynamics, by the Bloodhound Land Speed record team.

Breaks between lecture groups gave the 200 visitors the chance to meet, and enjoy the exhibitions created by local organisations. The day was finished off by Cranfield University’s King’s Norton Lecture, given by Professor Iain Gray, the Director of Aerospace, who talked about “Cranfield 70 years on – what would Lord King’s Norton vision for the next 70 years look like?”

The organising committee would like to thank Cranfield University, Lockheed Martin, MBDA, Airbus Defence and Space and ATI for their support to the event, as well as all of the speakers and of course the many delegates who made the day the success it was.

Greg Nunn
22 July 2016