Cranfield graduate brings aviation technology expertise

Sparrowhawk, the aircraft designed by Matthew Sammut with other students at Cranfield University.

Sparrowhawk, the aircraft designed by Matthew Sammut with other students at Cranfield University.

Aviation has fascinated Matthew Sammut since he was a child. He would go to the airport to watch aircraft, attend airshows, explore mechanisms, and sign up to aviation-related courses.

At 22, after obtaining a first class Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering with honours at the University of Malta, he decided it was time to merge his passion with his career. The natural step was to further his studies at a top UK university and he enrolled for a Master’s programme in Aerospace Vehicle Design (Avionics System Design) at Cranfield University.

At Cranfield, Mr Sammut was exposed to everything from inertial and satellite navigation systems to the cockpit environment and aircraft dynamics at lectures led by industry experts from such organisations as Airbus, Thales and ARINC. A unique feature of the course was the group design project during which all students work together to design an aircraft. Students were required to deliver a complete design. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the project task was to develop an Advanced Tilt-Rotor aircraft, dubbed the ‘V-10 Sparrowhawk’.

Mr Sammut’s task was to design the autopilot, including the automatic landing system. His work included several considerations such as detailed consideration of system failure modes to ensure that the design would be safe for operation in commercial aviation.

The programme also required students to complete an individual research project, culminating in a thesis. Mr Sammut’s thesis on multivariable parameter optimisation of flight trajectories was supervised by David Zammit-Mangion, one of the avionics lecturers at Cranfield University who is also an academic at the University of Malta.

The motivation behind the project was the work being carried out by Prof. Zammit-Mangion and his team at Clean Sky, the world’s largest research programme focusing on the greening of air transport.

Partly funded by the European Commission, Clean Sky brings the major European industrial partners together with leading research establishments from the European Research Area to develop breakthrough technologies to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment.

Cranfield University, with international partners including Airbus, Thales Avionics, EADS-IW, NLR, DLR, Delft University of Technology and the University of Malta, is working on the identification of optimal flight trajectories that can enable the reduction of CO2 and NOx emissions and noise pollution.

The consortium has been developing and using a trajectory optimisation tool, called GATAC and Mr Sammut’s work contributed to this activity. His contribution involved studying and validating fuel-efficient climb trajectories using GATAC and determining a novel strategy to enable quick optimisation to be carried out on board aircraft in real time in their flight management systems.

Following the completion of his studies, Mr Sammut returned to Malta and works at the University with Prof. Zammit-Mangion and the Clean Sky Team of the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering. He now forms part of a group excelling in research in aeronautics at the University of Malta, putting the skills he developed in his academic studies to good use for the benefit of the country.

Mr Sammut’s studies were made possible thanks to the Strategic Education Pathways Scholarship (STEPS) Scheme which is part-financed by the European Union.


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