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InSPIRing Flight: wing ice protection system soars through its Critical Design Review

CAD model of the InSPIRe IWT demonstrator
CAD model of the InSPIRe IWT demonstrator

As a plane flies in high altitudes and at temperatures of up to -57°C, aircraft must employ de-icing systems to keep their wings free of ice. 

Ice can alter the flow of air over the wing and tail, reducing the lift force that keeps the plane in the air, and potentially causing aerodynamic stall – a condition that can lead to a temporary loss of control. 

The wing ice protection system installed on most planes is a safety feature that is necessary, but can also be energy-intensive. 

InSPIRe were inspired – pardon the pun – to develop low power wing ice protection systems, maximising safety standards while reducing energy costs, in line with Clean Sky’s mission to achieve carbon-neutral aviation by 2050. 

This initiative is part of Clean Sky’s Energy Optimised Regional Aircraft initiative, and this solution will be one of six new onboard systems that will reduce energy, noise and emissions. 

The concept envisaged is an innovative, multi-zone electrothermal wing ice protection system (WIPS) that is optimised to operate in pure de-icing mode without an energy- intensive parting strip. Furthermore, it is compatible with the requirements of the future Regional Aircraft Initiative wing with a morphing leading edge.

The heater technology is based on a heater polymer and is integrated into the composite leading edge.

The project successfully completed its Critical Design review on June 22 and 23, 2020. 

The next steps will be the validation of the WIPS technology in the Ice Wind Tunnel of the Italian Center for Aerospace Research (CIRA) with a full-scale demonstrator, bringing them to TRL 5.

InSPIRe is coordinated by the Austrian Institute of Technology, which also works on power electronics development and CFD simulation; AeroTex UK contributes IPS design and IWT test campaign planning, and Villinger R&D provides heater technology. Peak Technology contributes composite structures, and Kompetenzzentrum für elektrochemische Oberflächentechnologie GmbH (AIT) (CEST) performs testing. 

Altogether, the project benefited from € 1 299 340 in EU Horizon 2020 funding under Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking.

LDO, CIRA and INSPIRE team
LDO, CIRA and INSPIRE team

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