Focus on user needs helps streamline engineering design

A commercial collaboration with BAE Systems and Imperial College London.

Business and design efficiencies are the drivers of an international research collaboration underway to streamline new high-performance, multi-domain design techniques.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne and Imperial College London are collaborating with leading defence and aerospace developer BAE Systems, applying a new approach to the design and development of missile control systems.

Their aim is to create more efficient design process by considering multiple objectives and potential trade-offs to optimise the final design as part of a single process.

University of Melbourne mechanical engineering research student Vincent Bachtiar says defence systems have become an increasingly complex combination of highly specialised subsystems. Traditionally, each subsystem is designed independently of the other, often with ad-hoc approaches.

His research is focusing on the process of balancing the multiple, competing objectives in the design of control systems for defensive missiles to achieve a better design.

He says, for example, incorporating a model predictive control (MPC) as part of the operating system can improve the accuracy of missile interception. MPC systems have the ability to anticipate future events and adjust operations to improve performance within specified limits.

In flight, this means the system can autonomously adjust the angle of a missile’s flight to successfully intercept an attack. However, MPC systems typically require a high level of computational capacity, are power hungry and expensive.

The approach we are working with is to simultaneously optimise the baseline intercept performance and the cost of production, Mr Bachtiar says. The theories developed as part of the research will enable a practising engineer to optimise trade-offs and subsequently make well-grounded design decisions. The general principles can also be applied broadly other fields where performance has traditionally been developed independently of other end use requirements, reducing the need for costly design cycles.

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