Math research projects will help make Canadian aeronautics more sustainable

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Five projects from the Faculty of Mathematics have received funding as part of the recent Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA) Research-for-Impact (RFI) grants.

The grants, which total more than $260,000 in research funding, are part of WISA’s partnership with the aeronautics industry and the Canadian government. Research conducted with support from the RFI grants will aid in making Canadian aeronautics more resilient and helping meet its net-zero emissions goal by 2050.

“The Faculty of Math is home to world-class experts in areas such as fluid dynamics and artificial intelligence,” says Charles Clark, Associate Dean for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “These grants allow us to apply that expertise to new and pressing problems related to climate change and sustainable aeronautics. By working in partnership with industry and government, we can make real progress toward a more sustainable future.”

The Faculty of Math projects are as follows:

“Generalizable Machine Learning Models for Flight Delay Prediction”

Shai Ben-David (professor of Computer Science), Anita Layton (professor of Applied Mathematics), Tosca Lechner (PhD candidate in Computer Science)

New technologies are improving the efficiency of air flow traffic management. A key knowledge gap, however, concerns the generalizability of machine learning (ML) models. Existing models are typically trained using data from one specific region or airport and perform poorly when applied to a different region or airport. Researchers will develop a novel methodology to generalize flight arrival prediction models, allowing models trained on data-rich regions to be transferrable to a different, data-poor region. Project results will improve sustainability by identifying for airlines the most efficient routes, at the optimum altitude and speed, and ensuring smoother arrival and departure flight profiles at airports and reduce delays.

“Efficient Shape Optimization of Gas Turbines for Green Aviation”

Hans De Sterck (professor of Applied Mathematics), David Del Rey Fernandez (assistant professor of Applied Mathematics), Hessam Babaee (assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Pittsburgh)

Multidisciplinary design analysis and optimization (MDAO) is the cornerstone of modern Engineering practice and design. State of the art techniques, for example for shape optimization, are intrusive and require direct access to and modification of the underlying solver. Unfortunately, in most industrial settings, either there is no desire to implement changes to in-house solvers or the solvers are third party and therefore cannot be changed. As a first step towards numerical methods suits aimed at MDAO, in this project researchers look to develop non-intrusive surrogates and reduced-order models that facilitate shape optimization.

“Immersive, Intelligent, and Personalized Pilot Training”

Jian Zhao (assistant professor of Computer Science), Shi Cao (associate professor of Systems Design Engineering)

Gaze behaviours are closely related to situational awareness and pilot performance in aviation. By using their eyes to scan the cockpit instruments and other displays, as well as looking outside to observe other aircrafts, the terrain, and the weather, pilots can build a mental model of their current state and anticipate potential risks or changes. Studies have shown that experts have many significant differences in gaze behaviours compared to novices, such as shorter dwells, more total fixations, etc. However, such experts’ visual scanning strategies require years of training. The industry still uses low-efficiency methods such as verbal commands or video recordings to train pilots. This research aims to boost the training efficiency and safety in aviation via developing an immersive, intelligent, and personalized training system for novice pilots by leveraging augmented reality (AR) and eye tracking. Via collaboration and deployment studies, this research will benefit pilot training schools and the aviation industry by enhancing the learning experience of student pilots, improving the efficiency of training, and thus reducing cost.

“Accurate and Provably Stable Coupling for Fluid Structure Interaction Problems”

David Del Rey Fernandez (assistant professor of Applied Mathematics)

Multiphysics simulations are of fundamental importance in most engineering simulations. However, the development of robust and accurate solvers is complicated when coupling different discretization approaches and geometric modeling techniques. In this project, researchers are interested in improving coupling procedures such that 1) the resulting coupled physics problem is provably stable, and 2) the interface coupling results in improved accuracy versus standard approaches.

“Provably Stable and Positivity Preserving High-Order Methods for Ice Accretion Problems”

David Del Rey Fernandez (assistant professor of Applied Mathematics)

The accurate and predictive simulation of ice accretion is fundamental to the design of safe aircraft. In this project, researchers look to develop a numerical methods framework that leads to robust (provably stable) methods for the ice-accretion problem that sharply resolve the shadow zone interface. The resultant numerical methods framework will be used to develop novel cutting-edge high-order discretizations as well as determine the non-invasive design order changes required so that Bombardier’s in-house code inherits these same stability and sharp interface resolving properties.

Roberto Guglielmi, assistant professor of Applied Mathematics, is also a co-applicant on a funded project from the Faculty of Engineering.

“Multi-quadcopters Coordination for Long-term Environmental Monitoring”

Gennaro Notomista (assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering), Roberto Guglielmi (assistant professor of Applied Mathematics), Derek Robinson (assistant professor of Geography and Environmental Management)

This recently funded WISA RFI project will enable long-term infrastructure and environmental monitoring applications by means of swarms of coordinated autonomous aerial robots (drones). These applications are numerous and include the long-term management and monitoring of airport landscape and infrastructure, the estimation of environmental fields of interest such as air quality and noise/light pollution, as well as the monitoring of health and growth of plantations in agricultural fields. The outcomes of this project will impact environmental sustainability of monitoring applications, through the intelligent use of energy and resources. This will strengthen economic aeronautic sustainability thanks to a more effective aircraft maintenance and the resulting reduced airport shutdowns.

“We are very proud of the contributions our faculty are making to WISA’s research,” says Mark Giesbrecht, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics. “This funding speaks to the essential role that math researchers must play in building a more sustainable future.”

You can learn more about WISA, and see the full list of funded projects, on their website.