CATEC offers facilities and scientific and technological resources which are unique to both Spain and Europe, enabling it to develop and participate in R+D projects with major potential as turning points for the international aeronautical industry. Andalusia has emerged as a benchmark in the world sector as a result of the work carried out by its research staff and its focus on technological specialisation in fields such as UAVs, robotics, simulation and software.
The Centre for Advanced Aerospace Technology (CATEC) is a unique centre of excellence due to its extensive technical capabilities and its pioneering scientific and technological resources for the execution of projects mainly focused on the field of aerospace R+D. Its research lines focus on development of new technologies which are of potential interest to the sector and their transfer to Andalusian companies linked with the aeronautical industry and other related fields which can make use of these technological innovations.
CATEC is divided into four specialist areas which function independently but which also work together to ensure successful results. Its different work areas are Materials and Processes, Automation and Robotics, Simulation and Software and Avionics and Unmanned Systems.
Specialist areas The Materials and Processes Department embraces a wide range of technologies which are of particular interest to aerostructure manufacturers. Its applied research and development includes new manufacturing processes such as Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing and non-destructive inspections (x-ray computed tomography, US, thermography and Laser Shearography). It also has an area dedicated to Structural Testing, enabling large-scale mechanical tests of structural components. Meanwhile, the Automation and Robotics Area focuses on automation of manufacturing, assembly and maintenance activities, mainly for the aerospace industry.
Its major research lines include development of automated test benches and flexible robotic systems based on mobile platforms or multiple cooperative robots and RFID solutions for the comprehensive management of products and processes. It also researches collaborative environments involving integration of persons in automatic and robotic systems and new portable interfaces for industrial use. CATEC also has a Simulation and Software department specializing in HPC (High Performance Computing), scientific simulation, certification of real-time software (up to DAL-A), multi-core technology, avionics systems simulations, UAV simulations, UAV Ground Control Stations, Artificial Intelligence, critical systems user interfaces, virtual reality, 3-D worlds and training systems. One of CATEC’s most outstanding areas is the Avionics and Unmanned Systems department, which is responsible for development of on-board hardware and software that supports high criticality levels. Its aim is to innovate in areas such as guidance, navigation and control systems, “sense and avoid” technologies, multi-vehicle coordination and new communication methods (mobile ad-hoc networks and security). Finally, it allows the development of flying tests with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to test the technology developed by the different areas of the Centre. Pioneering technological capabilities CATEC’s technological capabilities comprise one of the key features of the Centre's research potential. Its facilities include a test bed for unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, a restricted airspace for testing of autonomous coordination of vehicles and monitoring of movements. CATEC also has a fleet of 20 UAVs (10 quadrotors, 6 UAVs and 4 rotating-wing aircraft) capable of carrying payloads of up to 20 kg. The Centre also has a 3-D virtual reality room with a 130° curved surround screen, an ultrasound localisation system and sensor- equipped helmets and gloves. CATEC also uses haptic devices to simulate movements and a surface device to facilitate interaction between person and computer. Other star features include a 4 Meganewton dynamic structural testing machine, one of four with this capacity in Spain; a “halt-hass chamber for highly accelerated life testing of aeronautical components and materials; and another climatic chamber which enables regulation of the pressure, temperature and humidity of the parts tested. CATEC also has robot arms, multi-robot systems and other technical features which together make it a key test facility for the aeronautical sector and other technological fields.
Finally, its laboratories are equipped with the latest non-destructive testing systems, such as ultrasound inspections for carbon fibre and fibreglass materials, infrared thermography and laser shearography techniques for the detection of anomalies in composites and metallic parts and prototyping machines with laser sintering and rapid manufacturing technology for the manufacture of metal parts and polymeric materials (resins), which are used in subsequent tests. Participation in multiple initiatives All this cutting-edge technology enables CATEC to develop and participate in pioneering projects in different fields linked with the aerospace industry. CATEC’s own star project is the ATLAS Experimental Flight Centre, the first centre in Spain devoted exclusively to experiments with unmanned aircraft systems and technology. However, CATEC also collaborates together with technological and research companies in other Spanish and European initiatives, such as the PLANET project for the integration of UAVs with wireless sensor networks; the AEROMAB project for aerospace technologies applied to biodiversity conservation; and the PROSES initiative, which will enable the creation of new protocols for aircraft communication systems and facilitate integration in the future Single European Sky. Other outstanding initiatives with involvement by CATEC include the VBR 8x8 programme for the development of a next-generation vehicle with hybrid-electric propulsion for civil and military use; the DEPLA project for the development of a new system with lighter composite materials to protect aircraft from impacts and attacks; and the SINTONIA project (Unmanned Systems with Zero Environmental Impact). As a consequence of the scientific work by the professionals and researchers at CATEC, the Centre has already received various European and international prizes which confirm the potential and prestige of Andalusian research into the development of new technologies for the aeronautical and aerospace sector.