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Wed, Jul 28, 2010

GE Aviation and University of Dayton Sign Agreement at AirVenture

Ohio Based Research Center To Advance Innovation In Aviation Systems

By Maxine Scheer

The State of Ohio appeared on the EAA AirVenture radar screen Monday with the official signing of an agreement between GE Aviation and the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI). The signing took place in the GE Aviation Learning Center, which is dedicated this year to energizing innovation in electric aircraft.

ANN provided details of this alliance when it was announced in April that GE had selected UDRI as its research partner to create an Electrical Power Integrated Systems Research & Development Center (EPISCENTER) near Dayton, Ohio. The center includes $7.6 million in support from voter approved economic development program, the Ohio Third Frontier. Research at the EPISCENTER is proposed to be directed at several markets including more electric aircraft, on- and off-highway hybrid and electric vehicles, and marine applications.


Chet Fuller

At Monday's news conference, Chet Fuller, President of GE Civil Aviation Systems, introduced Mickey McCabe, vice president for Research and Executive Director, UDRI and Austin Schaffter, vice president of Electric Power Systems for GE Aviation who both signed the agreement.

In talking with ANN about the program, Chet Fuller expressed GE's confidence that electric aircraft are going to play a major role in the future of aviation. "Innovation is a core competence of aviation and our nation. This initiative between GE and UDRI is going to create the most modern lab for aircraft systems in the world."

 
Mickey McCabe

GE's research and development capabilities are extensive, and include over 2,800 researchers and employees at GE's four global research facilities estimated to entail over $1 billion in research spending each year. UDRI employs over 400 researchers whose focus includes aero propulsion, energy, materials, and mechanical systems.

When probing why GE selected UDRI as its partner, GE's Fuller described a number of factors that included the State of Ohio's leadership and support of industry, support from the voters as evidenced by approving the Third Frontier Program and UDRI's track record in producing results. GE's alliance with academic research centers is not new. "If we hire from the university system, we must also invest in it", said Fuller.


Austin Schafftner

Proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and its Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) was also identified as an additional consideration in GE's decision to locate in the Dayton region.

UDRI's McCabe emphasized the Institute's success in securing grants as just one part of the equation. "Success", says McCabe, "is writing a proposal that effectively communicates how the sponsor will get what they want and, more importantly demonstrating a track record for delivering it." UDRI's materials research capability is the second largest in the nation among universities, said Dayton's Mickey McCabe. "We have 400 folks at UDRI dedicated to research and demonstrated capabilities in turning technology into new products".


T-Shirt Exchange

UDRI's capabilities in Materials research was also a critical factor to GE. Fuller pointed to the relevance of materials to GE's advancement of a silicon carbide switch featured in the Learning Center. "One of the key innovations to electric aircraft is packing power into a small space," said GE's Austin Schaffter. He described where work that GE is doing with DoD agencies in this area is much further ahead than in civil aviation. "Innovation in Civil aviation is impacted by issues associated with liability," said Schaffter. "In DoD you see more risk taking and strong technical people overseeing systems engineering." Both UDRI's McCabe and GE's Schaffter were extremely optimistic about producing advancements that would apply to business and general aviation aircraft by leveraging the technology advancements from existing research programs in addition to DoD investments, with initiatives envisioned for the EPISCENTER. "It seems fitting", said Fuller, "that we established a partnership in the same town as the Wright Brothers."

FMI: www.geae.com, www.udri.udayton.edu, www.wpafb.af.mil/afrl/rz/

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