UDRI lands largest Air Force contract in school’s history

Air Force seeks to reduce aircraft maintenance costs

The University of Dayton Research Institute on Tuesday announced the largest award in its history — a $99 million contract to help the U.S. Air Force quickly integrate new or improved technologies to reduce maintenance costs and increase availability of its aircraft fleet.

At least 25 to 30 researchers will be working under the five-year contract, with about half of those being new positions, said Sukh Sidhu, head of UDRI’s Energy Technologies and Materials division.

In addition, the University of Dayton will develop new courses to provide Air Force personnel and UD students with the skills to use these new technologies.

“The whole idea of this project is how can we use technology and smarter planning to save time and money for the Air Force. Time means that it increases our availability and our capabilities. If the airplanes are sitting in the shop, they are of no use to us,” Sidhu said.

UD is the second area school to recently receive a record military contract. In August, Wright State Research Institute announced the Air Force Research Laboratory awarded it a $42.5 million contract, the largest in the university’s history.

The UDRI contract includes an initial work order for $5.4 million for the development of technologies to monitor key aircraft components and automatically alert personnel when maintenance is needed.

UDRI also will target technologies that include additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, and robotic non-destructive evaluation, which involves using sensors to find maintenance issues without having to tear down the aircraft.

The contract is under the new Enterprise Product Support Engineering effort sponsored by the Air Force Materiel Command Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The LCMC manages Air Force aircraft maintenance from acquisition to the boneyard.

UDRI will help the Air Force find and transition cutting-edge technologies to reduce the cost of keeping aircraft flying, while also reducing the amount of time aircraft are grounded for maintenance.

Much of the Air Force’s aging fleet is from two to five decades old, Sidhu said.

“To keep them going, it’s quite a task. So that’s where UDRI is coming in. We will help them with that task, making it more efficient and economical, making it take less time,” he said.

UDRI will evaluate newly developed global technologies to see whether they could replace outdated or less efficient systems. Researchers also will look for proven technologies being used in commercial sectors, such as the automotive industry, that could be adapted to Air Force needs.

The Research Institute already has started hiring for some of the new positions created under the contract.

UDRI might need additional talent with expertise related to the new technologies, “so we will go get that,” Sidhu said.

UD’s educational component will train airmen and future engineers to use the technologies in the proper manner.

“The Air Force is a big employer for us, and the (Department of Defense) in general. Whatever we transfer to the Air Force can also then be used by the Navy and the Army. They will need people who have knowledge in all those new technologies and new areas.

“We think that if we can establish that as part of our curriculum, we can certainly be preparing the workforce for the future,” Sidhu said. Doing so could help grow local business, and also enhance the “world-class reputation” of UD and the region as a whole, he said.

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