Week 46/2018

Engines are going digital

The newly developed Pearl 15 engine
The newly developed Pearl 15 engine
Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing – the buzzwords of digitalization are also driving the aviation industry. The engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce is one of the pioneers. The company's latest engine generation is more digital than any before – most of the development work and the complex engine tests, production and support are carried out in Dahlewitz, Brandenburg.

The newly developed Pearl 15 engine is used in the latest generation of large business jets and uses more digital technologies than any other engine before. This includes a monitoring system, for example, that for the first time records several thousand parameters of the engines and important add-on components during operation in real time. Using specially developed algorithms, it is possible to detect any maintenance requirements while still in the air using complex calculation procedures. Thanks to secure, bi-directional communication channels, the new monitoring system also offers new possibilities for remote diagnosis: It not only sends relevant data for maintenance to the responsible engineers, but can also be configured from the ground. It allows data to be monitored in a live stream and compare them with those of the entire fleet. This most advanced engine monitoring system in the world uses digital capabilities to make intelligent decisions and aims to ensure maximum engine availability.

At first glance, the leap towards digitalization only seems interesting for technicians and engineers, but most of all it offers customers the advantage of even greater engine availability. But people in the vicinity of airports and the environment also benefit permanently from the new engine generation that was developed with the help of the latest digital tools. The engine is 2 decibels quieter, emits 7 percent less CO2 and 20 percent less nitrogen oxide while delivering up to 9 percent more thrust at the same time.


Part of a larger vision

The latest engine generation is part of the Rolls-Royce vision of the intelligent engine. The company wants to revolutionize aircraft engines using cloud-based analysis and big data. The goal is for engines to be able to communicate with each other one day and even adapt to the context of their current use: Certain characteristics of the respective operation, possible restrictions and the needs of the customer. Reactions to the environment become possible without human intervention. This is the next systematic step towards the vision of the "Intelligent Engine", in which the boundaries between physical products and services are becoming increasingly blurred. Ultimately, this concept will lead to engines learning by themselves and eventually being able to heal themselves to some extent.

Technology from Brandenburg

The Rolls-Royce plant in Dahlewitz plays a key role here. This is where the new Pearl engine family is developed, tested on test benches, built and looked after when in service. The practical test program during development, in which the engines are subjected to extreme conditions at various locations worldwide, is also controlled from here. These include tests at temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius, heavy rainfall or direct lightning strikes. The tests ensure that the engine functions reliably even under extreme conditions.

The new engine was certified by EASA in February 2018 and is currently undergoing final flight testing. In 2019, the first Bombardier Global 5500 and Global 6500 aircraft will be delivered to customers worldwide.

The new engine of the Pearl engine family is the culmination of Rolls-Royce's more than 100-year history in aviation. The company's engines power some 5,000 aircraft worldwide.