Rolls-Royce Control, Monitoring and Systems Engineering University Technology Centre

The UTC in Control, Monitoring and Systems Engineering was established in 1993 by Rolls-Royce plc. within the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield. 

Rolls-Royce plc Intelligent Engine
©Rolls-Royce plc

Working alongside Rolls-Royce experts, from within a world-class Control Department, the UTC carries out short-term and long-term collaborative research with the aim of supporting the company's business aims through improving the product, improving productivity and reducing cost-of-ownership.

We support Rolls-Royce throughout their business activity in design, development, manufacture and service provision for integrated power systems that are used in the air, on land and at sea.

Typically, the centre supports over 20 researchers: Research Associates, Visiting Researchers, PhD researchers and masters projects.

Rolls-Royce Control, Monitoring and Systems UTC Work Programmes

UTC work programmes include strategic research topics such as control systems architecture, optimising control law designs, and prognostic health monitoring. We also undertake a technology sensing role, revealing potential applications in areas such as wireless technology and energy harvesting.

Our research falls into three collaborative work packages:

Multivariable Modelling, Control and Optimisation

Increasingly complex power systems, e.g. in Aerospace propulsion, require advanced control strategies to achieve multiple economic and environmental performance criteria. Multi-input-multi-output system identification strategies, and optimal control design techniques, help us deliver project-ready (TRL-6) solutions, and incisive trade-off studies, that successfully address control design challenges for safety-critical systems. Our areas of expertise include:

Model-Based Control: Research using on-line and off-line mathematical models based on physics and data, deliver effective controllers, tailored to the dynamics of novel power systems. We specialise in applied robust design (to minimise the effect of uncertainties) and predictive control (dealing with saturations, constraints and limited sensing) to deliver solutions to industry’s’ emerging needs.

Nonlinear Control: Real systems present a varied range of nonlinearities, and dealing with them can be a critical factor when designing safe and efficient solutions. Thermal management and gas turbine control are some of the challenging areas where closed-loop linearisation, parameter-varying scheduling, or model inversion have been successfully applied.

Multi-objective Optimisation: Control system architectures and their algorithmic control laws often present high dimensional problems that need to simultaneously optimise multiple objectives whilst satisfying a many constraints. Our capability in specialised cost function modelling and constraint formulation enables us to deliver informed assessments on the potential benefits of each design decision.

Health Management Technologies

The aim of this research programme is to identify and develop technologies that ensure that Rolls-Royce retain their competitive edge by further reducing engine cost-of-ownership and increasing service revenues.

Maximising through-life value is addressed in this work package through four themes:

EHM System Design: Developing tools and analysis techniques to support the efficient development and deployment of gas turbine monitoring systems.

New Function Health Monitoring: Supporting emerging monitoring needs by developing new analytical algorithm and data acquisition capability.

Diagnostic certainty and Prognosis: Supporting the use of Health Management systems to perform remaining useful life estimations for an asset.

EHM-Control Synergy: Identifying and demonstrating the opportunities to use monitoring information to optimise system behaviour / asset performance.

These themes are explored within two competing priorities: maximising information gain to identify incipient faults, allowing on-condition maintenance scheduling, while also minimising the sensor count on production engines.

To achieve this goal analysis frameworks are constructed to direct research into all stages in the health monitoring signal chain: sensing, data acquisition, data transfer and data analysis, decision support and action.

Systems & Architectures

The aim of this research programme is to design and assess future control and monitoring architectures and enabling technologies that will enhance health monitoring, management and control functionality throughout Rolls-Royce products. Areas of research includes, but is not limited to:

New actuation and sensing technologies: Enhancing and extending health monitoring of Rolls-Royce products through smart sensing technologies. For example, the development of energy harvesting wireless sensor technologies and their integration into new and existing products, test bed vehicles and the supply chain.

Optimised system architectures: Extending product capability through new on-board and off-board hardware and software integration for Rolls-Royce products including the deployment of UTC technologies onto control & health management cyber-physical systems. This encompasses tooling for designing control system architectures and development of supporting software on embedded devices through to cloud technologies.

Cyber-secure architectures: With technologies and computer systems being ever more integrated, system architectures are required to be cyber-secure to ensure continued safe operation and reduce possible downtime. Cryptographic and information theoretic techniques are being researched and demonstrated on avionic computing hardware.

The UTC also performs underpinning fundamental research work, funded by other Industrial partners and diverse research funding bodies, where it complements the three main programmes.

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