Composite materials with INEGI’s engineering make aircrafts stronger and lighter

INEGI is collaborating in the development of lightweight and impact resistant composite panels for civilian and military unmanned aerial vehicles.

By enabling a significant reduction in weight, which translates to reduced fuel consumption, composite materials are used increasingly in transports. When speaking of military unmanned aerial vehicles, this weight reduction is particularly important, but it is also essential to ensure the protection of structures against impact.

In this context the ALIR project was created. The promoters of the initiative proposed "to develop a new type of composite material with the capacity to withstand the impact of low, medium and high energy, as is the case of ballistic projectiles", explains Ricardo Pinto, responsible for the project at INEGI.

Over the last three years, a team of INEGI specialists has been involved in the development of new materials, working on the numerical characterization models and manufacturing processes, and the integration of the developed materials, in order to guarantee easy implementation in an assembly line.

The research activities resulted in two solutions that withstand a 9 mm caliber ballistic impact without penetration of the structural material: a ceramic-metal composite and a new polyethylene fiber-based composite material in a polyurethane matrix. "Each of the materials has advantages and limitations, so the answer to this challenge would be in the combination of the two alternatives," says Ricardo Pinto.

The materials will now be integrated into demonstrators of specific sections of an unmanned aerial vehicle and subjected to ballistic tests in a controlled environment. In this phase, a monitoring system will also be tested that allows the real-time measurement of the structural state of the aircraft in operation, also developed under this project.

In the future, "there is a high potential for transferring the developed solutions for both the commercial aerospace industry and the defence industry, and to bullet-proof equipment manufacturers, such as protections for land vehicles, or military clothing, for example", says the project manager.

In addition to INEGI, the Centro de Investigação, Desenvolvimento e Inovação da Academia Militar (CINAMIL), the CICECO - Instituto de Materiais de Aveiro, and the companies XAeroSystems and Critical Materials are part of the consortium.

Universidade do Porto
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