Inventor: Mark Voskuijl
Even the best patents promising many benefits won’t necessarily attract queues of buyers. At least, that is the experience of Mark Voskuijl, Assistant Professor of Flight Performance and Propulsion (Faculty of Aerospace Engineering (AE)). Building on a project he was involved in at the University of Liverpool, where he obtained his PhD, he has developed a modification for the steering system of helicopters. Most helicopters have a horizontal stabiliser. In some cases, the stabiliser is moveable.
Voskuijl conceived the idea of using the movable horizontal stabiliser not only for stability but also for active steering control. This means that, at high speeds, the force to which the rotor is subjected is reduced by 25%, making the helicopter easier to steer and cutting maintenance costs. And the best thing about it is that the modification is relatively easy. Voskuijl took his design to helicopter manufacturers, but their response was cautious. However easy may be to fit the new component, it needs to be certified, and that’s expensive. “They also raised questions about safety aspects.” The assistant professor asked graduates to work out all the failure scenarios. ‘We found that the horizontal stabiliser doesn’t need to be extended very far to have an effect. And if it breaks, the helicopter can still fly and retain stability. Now it’s a matter of convincing the helicopter industry. “The world’s biggest helicopter conference is in May. It will be my last chance to sell the patent, otherwise the research won’t get any further than the pages of an academic journal.”