Mathew Joosten crashes several helicopters a day—without any deaths or injury. He uses computer simulation.
A research student of the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures, Mr Joosten has designed ‘virtual crash test’ software to help accelerate the development of safety systems.
This is particularly helpful for the application of advanced composite materials to building helicopters. These materials are very light and compact and can absorb vast amounts of energy in a crash. They work in the same way as a crumple zone in a car. “Beneath the seats of a helicopter we can install devices that absorb the impact of a crash, so less is transmitted to passengers,” Mathew says.
But using composites demands extensive effort in designing and testing these crash structures. “Without a computer model, assessing the performance of energy absorbing structures would require time consuming and expensive crash tests,” says Mathew. “Up until now we have not been able to model these collapses with the accuracy required.”
With the support of the CRC, Mathew has designed such a model. “We now have a tool to predict enough of the performance of the structures so that only a minimal number of real-life tests are needed. This is great because it means that if the design is changed slightly, we don’t have to perform another series of tests.”
Although his model is for helicopters, Mathew says it can be applied to many other aircraft. During development of the new model, Mathew spent several months conducting crash tests at the German Aerospace Center.