Space innovations are changing some of the old habits in the aviation industry. Satellite-data projects are simplifying the organization of international airports. Other space-related projects are designing new engines for stratospheric planes or using probabilistic models for airfoil design improvement. The ESA BIC Prague incubator searches for such projects, develops them, and helps them start their successful business.
Startup ZetJet develops propulsion units for pseudo-satellites (autonomous aircraft flying at altitudes above the aircraft’s’ level and below the satellites). ZetJet is a Swiss project that was attracted to the Czech Republic by the possibility of cooperating with Czech Technical University and ESA BIC Prague. Their technology works with energy recovery - a smart engine design solution for more effective energy management, which reduces fuel consumption by tens of percent. Today, the Swiss company is developing an engine for stratospheric aircraft, but the ultimate goal is to apply the technology in commercial aircraft.
The evolution of the UptimAI software has begun at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, where its prototype was used by researchers to identify impact trajectories of the space debris. For the first time, it became possible to create complex mathematical models with an even lower amount of simulations than is the number of problem parameters. To prove technology’s abilities on practical engineering problems, it was used for the analysis of the novel design of the flapped airfoil for commuter aircraft. The model of the problem created by UptimAI confirmed that the proposed flap concept has large potential to improve the airplane’s flight performance and shorten the landing distance. Compared to commonly used Design of Experiments methods, the UptimAI approach saved more than 450 hours of computational time. Moreover, it allows designers to easily find the direct way to stable aerodynamic characteristics which can be relied upon even if the flap is being deformed under loading.
Many airports around the world are using outdated management methods not far from pen-and-paper communication and phone calls among the personnel. Startup NG Aviation creates an innovative platform for airport management and communication with aircraft. In cooperation with the European Space Agency, they are working on the Smart Airport project. The team digitizes airport data and connects its employees. Any information entered into the system (for example, that one runway has been closed) is automatically copied to the airport’s digital copy and this information is available for all employees, air traffic controllers, and pilots.
Startup Strafos was born out of Jet-love. The founder of the project, Daniel Valeš, started his career by washing them and later became a broker. However, he found that the jets’ management is often done using manual calculations which leads to a lot of unnecessary empty flights. The customer only pays for the trip to one destination, but due to the lack of communication tools between brokers and customers, it usually returns empty. Daniel Valeš did not find an existing effective solution, so he created his own - he founded a startup. Strafos is a platform for the management of private flights, connecting the operators of these flights with airports and customers. Instead of lengthy phone calls about a plane vacancy and schedule of runways, the flight booking is made in a matter of minutes. It is a win-winwin situation providing lower costs for operators, less empty flights, and precise search and booking for the customer. Strafos is a clear example of a business idea based on a love of the subject and knowledge of the environment.
EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY AND THE BUSINESS INCUBATION
The Czech Republic is the brain & heart of the European space industry and satellite applications. Prague is home for the European GNSS Agency and Technology Transfer Broker. ESA BIC Prague creates opportunities for space-related projects and re-purposing space technology. It provides the incubation program for up to 2 years that includes financial support (EUR 50 000) and professional business and technical guidance. In the near future, it is also going to introduce a new program of excellent support that provides up to 200 000 EUR for highly innovative projects.
This article was published in the Aerospace Central Europe magazine in September 2020. Its author is Kateřina Syslová, ESA BIC Prague Marketing Manager.
Photos by: European Space Agency, Strafos