Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Jitendra Jadhav on NAL's Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) Project



Mr. Jitendra Jadhav, Director of the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) outlines the technology and design envelope of the Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) project in this video (which is a pre-Aero India 2019 Webinar) in the overall context of the Ministry of Civil Aviation's UDAN (Uday Desh ka Aam Nagarik) Program. The timeline envisaged for a flying prototype is 70 months.

The Regional Transport Aircraft, designed mainly to ply between Tier-II and Tier-II cities in India, (conforming to a forecast of 500 million passengers by 2027 and actual projected needs of Indian airline operators) is envisaged to embody a number of advanced technologies, including the Natural Laminar Flow Wing, a  Next Generation Power Plant (to be imported), Fly-by-wire flight control (with a matching display system), Open Distributed Modular Avionics (with facilities such as GPS-WAAS [the Wide-Area Augmentation System using GPS], the ADS-B [Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast] system for aircraft tracking]), Active Vibration and Noise Control.

Furthermore, advanced aerospace maintenance concepts, such as Integrated Vehicle Health Monitoring (IVHM) and Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) are expected to be incorporated into the aircraft technology envelope right from the beginning, to function with a Lean Ground Infrastructure (which, given that the aircraft will ply Tier-II and Tier-III city airports, is a significant consideration). And in order to enable better fuel efficiency, it is proposed that (i) the airframe will be made of (lighter) advanced composites, (ii) Aerodynamic drag reduction will be utilized, especially in the Natural Laminar Flow Wing, and (iii) a next generation power plant with an optimized turbine and compressor will be used.  Other advanced materials will also be used in coatings, enabling functionalities such as self-cleaning, anti-icing, and abrasion-resistance in the airframe and engine.

The initial prototype will build on the earlier progress with the 19-seater version of the Saras. The video also discusses a number of other advanced ideas, including how the entire Vehicle Health Management functionality will be networked to a central core computer, with the Avionics and Flight Control modules directly interfacing with Diagnostic/Prognostic algorithms.

While I have outlined just the core of the presentation in this blog, the full Webinar contains many other details, and includes what I thought was a very interesting Q&A session at the end, with many probing questions asked by Webinar attendees. To list a few: (i) Where will the Advanced Turboprop engine be sourced from? (ii) What are the details of the strategy for controlling maintenance costs? and (iii) How will the specific fuel consumption (SFC) be reduced?

Overall, this was a most interesting webinar on NAL's RTA Project!