Genius in the air – News

Professor David Rancourt
Photo: UdeS – Michel Caron

When engineering mixes with aeronautics, it gives beautiful projects. This is all the more the case when the environmental component enters the equation. Maintaining aircraft performance while reducing their environmental impact is the mission that David Rancourt, professor of mechanical engineering, and his research teams have set themselves. Through his role as an expert in aeronautics, he wishes to create technologies that will have an impact on society.

New technologies are everywhere, they are an integral part of our lives. The posture that David Rancourt has adopted defends that they are not always advantageous in aviation. The professor seeks to verify, especially from a propulsion point of view, which should or should not be used in aerial vehicles. Like mathematicians, he and his teams create equations assessing the challenges and benefits that these technologies can bring to machines. They then judge whether it is relevant to go further in the search.

We are often asked why we do not put solar panels on planes to reduce their ecological impact. The reality is that the solar panels would barely be able to provide power for the aircraft’s air conditioning. Similarly, the electric airplane would seem ideal. Again, a Boeing 787 making international flights, if it were electric, would take off power from the entire electrical network in the Eastern Townships!

Professor David Rancourt with his student Samuel Quenneville, master's student in mechanical engineering, and the aircraft-type drone.
Professor David Rancourt with his student Samuel Quenneville, émaster’s student in mechanical engineering, and the aircraft-type drone.
Photo: UdeS – Michel Caron

Professor David Rancourt

Professor Rancourt is the group’s expert in aeronautics, but he works closely with other members of the Createk laboratory to create technologies and make them available on the market. Starting from an idea, building it, testing it and then bringing it closer to marketing, that is the Createk vision. Recently, he and his teams developed technology that could soon replace helicopters for heavy-lift missions. The principle? Two to three robotic drones (aircraft type) are equipped with a rope, attached to a load. By circling at a speed of 100 to 110 kilometers per hour and from a precise angle, the planes are able to carry this load. Benefits? Although a conventional helicopter is suitable for carrying out this type of operation, this technology requires less energy from airplanes than from helicopters, i.e. five times less fuel, and makes it possible to transport heavier loads than a classic helicopter.

From heaven to earth!

Professor Rancourt’s role is not limited to doing research in aeronautics. Its mission is also to help companies outside of aeronautics to innovate in their field by providing them with significant academic expertise. A good example is this collaboration between the professor and this Quebec SME Technosub, in the sector of mining decanters. Water flows constantly in the depths of the mines, and this water is used to operate the machinery. The problem? Groundwater sometimes contains fine particles such as sand that can break the pumps needed to extract water. This is where the teacher comes in. He and his teams have been involved in optimizing Mudwizard technology to separate particles from underground mine waters so that they become clean and allow pumps to work properly.

Bringing concrete to research

Through his research, the professor attaches great importance to going directly into the field. This is particularly reflected in his way of teaching and in his collaborations.

Innovation is about mixing new ideas. Creativity plays a fundamental role in research. For an innovation to have a real impact on society, it must go beyond digital. It is important to bring realism and to go on the ground. Prototype, build, test, fail, repeat. We are far from a linear process.

Professor David Rancourt

David Rancourt works, among other things, with SMEs. According to him, they are an ideal vehicle for the development and rapid marketing of new technologies. He and his group work with, among others, Exonetik, which designs, develops and manufactures magnetorheological actuators, and Calogy Solutions, which specializes in thermal management technology. These two Sherbrooke SMEs saw their technologies developed in the laboratories of the Faculty of Engineering a few years ago. Recent projects include collaborations with Pratt and Whitney, Bell Flight, Laflamme Aero and Hydro-Québec.

A life-size course!

This summer and as for the past few years, more than 60 students in the master’s degree in mechanical engineering with an aeronautical concentration are enrolled in a life-size propulsion course, entitled “Aircraft Propulsion (AMC702)”. Students will be responsible for the complete operation of the turbine, similar to the power of a car and weighing only 2.8 kg. The data collected will then be used in the course. The tests will take place outside the Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT).

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