DARTeC | Cranfield University 


Simulated Airport

Video Wall

Digital Signage

Collaborative Systems

DARTeC - The Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre at Cranfield University is spearheading the UK’s research into digital aviation technology.

The Centre focuses on three areas of research: 
Transport Systems, Aerospace and Manufacturing.

DARTeC aims to address research challenges facing the aviation industry, such as:

  • the integration of drones into civilian airspace
  • increasing the efficiency of airports through technological advances
  • creating safe, secure, shared airspace through secure data communication infrastructures
  • increasing the reliability and availability of aircraft through self-sensing, self-aware technologies
  • Game-changing technologies such as a digital air traffic control tower and next-generation radar technologies on the University’s licensed airport create a unique research and development environment.
The DARTeC consortium includes Aveillant, Blue Bear Systems Research, Boeing, BOXARR, the Connected Places Catapult, Cranfield University, Inmarsat, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the IVHM Centre, Saab, the Satellite Applications Catapult and Thales, and has also received co-investment support from Research England.

Passenger experience area

To do

About DARTeC

Due to the commercially sensitive research being conducted on site, often by competing organisations working in their own laboratory space, a safe and secure system was required that would protect their privacy and IP whilst still allowing targeted collaboration with other partners within the facility.

As a completely new facility, DARTeC required a bespoke, flexible AV solution that met their Day 1 requirements and was fully scalable to meet their future needs. GVAV conducted a comprehensive review of available technologies that could be developed to meet the demands of the client’s brief.

The facility's Passenger Experience 
area required specific customisation that included ambient noise, PA announcements and the ability to simulate the full airport hall environment while emulating the passenger experience.

There were also requirements for zoned audio that delivered sound within a very localised area. Experiential benefits were fundamental to GVAV’s design. We focused on creating a system that would offer maximum flexibility and ease of operation for all users.

New user access is easy; an administrator simply logs into the admin page and assigns new users to the respective rooms. 

The ease with which this system operates is a source of pride, as our primary goal was to offer a great user experience from day one. Maximising use, value and ROI.

The result is a testament to the planning, design and forethought of what we did for this project to ensure a scalable and flexible system.

In the Passenger Experience Lab, the building’s most iconic location, 
we installed a pair of prominent Renkus Heinz line array column speakers on either side of the LED wall, which provide the programme audio for the space and creates a clear visual feature.

We also designed and installed 18 single monitor Dante line array Renkus Heinz speakers on a truss rail; the speakers were spaced with precision so that the entire lab area had full coverage audio. 

We created numerous presets for user-requested audio configurations, allowing users to set each speaker to play different output audio or enable/disable particular speakers.

As with all AV sources, this too was driven by NVX and utilised the Dante facility offered on the NVX-352, a high-performance AV over IP encoder/decoder supporting 4k 60fps video.

The entire building system uses Crestron Fusion, monitoring and scheduling software that allows support through alerts on Fusion or an on-demand support service. Users who need assistance can press the help button on any control panel menu and request rapid in-room support.

Alongside the flexible, scalable nature of the AV design, we ensured that the system offered sustainable efficiencies. Each area with installed AV was fitted with occupancy sensors, reacting to motion and light levels and linked with the room lighting and timed shutdowns programmed for day’s end. After a period when sensors and control panels have not been activated, lighting and AV systems will shut down automatically. 

Our designed system ensured maximum efficiency over the product's life and green efficiencies that additionally helped towards the BREEAM requirement for the building. Also, GVAV factored in long-term maintenance and redundancies into the design. 

By utilising AVoIP-based solutions, any new or changing equipment will not require new cabling infrastructure. Any additional sources that the client may need for future upgrades to the sharing system will only require an additional NVX, which they can then incorporate into the system themselves or via GVAV.

Our brief was to provide a world-class facility with a state-of-the-art system that is easy to use, with each space designed to suit both current and future requirements.

 Our client sees this project as a great success. It offers them all the facilities needed today and still looks to the future. We are proud to say we have managed to deliver this and much more besides.

The impact 

The creation of DARTeC and the subsequent installation of sophisticated AV have helped Cranfield University attract new partners, some of whom we have previously mentioned. It has also enhanced their ability to attract the best talent across a broad range of industry stakeholders.

Visually stunning and undoubtedly prestigious, DARTeC has become a technology showpiece. It is impressive aesthetically and offers outstanding facilities to platform great content and create a wow factor in the public areas.

It has provided a state-of-the-art space that supports research and learning.

The impacts on Cranfield University have been very positive and further increased the facility’s prestige within the aerospace industry. 

The AV systems installed by us have provided capabilities that continue to support this as a world-class campus.

When designing the DARTeC audio visual systems, many factors were vital, from the technical and environmental considerations to the methodology of the system’s operation and the need for intuitive controls.

User experience was the spirit of the project right from the very outset. Controls needed to have clarity, be elegantly organised and be easy to use, particularly given the variable experience levels anticipated within the pool of end users.

The equipment is called upon to carry out an enormous number of complex tasks almost transparently. At the push of a button, ergonomic controls run screens and sound whilst complex environmental scenarios activate. All are integral to the system’s success.

Sophisticated routines automate entire room scenarios, and the advanced equipment has resulted in the buildings’ diverse user group enjoying a fully interactive experience.

The client required the functionality to show diverse content simultaneously in the labs whilst also providing options to cycle content through various timed windowing options.

The level of system complexity was further enhanced in the two key labs (Passenger experience and MRO). The client wanted the additional option to treat these LED and video walls as blank canvas. 

And, as only select users would require this particular level of functionality, enhanced training would be necessary for those users to use this capability. Therefore, we created tiered access levels assignable through the system admin page. This could be performed on any of the touch panels or through the remote access web portal and ensures each user is appropriately assigned the facilities they require. 

Furthermore, if these requirements changed over time, it would simply require reissuing additional systems permissions managed by the Cranfield  AV support team.

The faculty can also easily update live content and information on the screens. 

The awe-inspiring ability to transfer sources to and from any destination allows flexibility they could never have technically achieved before. It’s a truly unique system with levels of flexibility unparalleled within this space.

Environmental considerations at DARTeC

GVAV are mindful of environmental considerations in every project we undertake, and we work with best-in-class partners, each striving to uphold excellence in the green space.

Independently awarded the ISO14001 accreditation, we are dedicated to well-managed, green, and environmentally sustainable solutions. 

Similarly, we maintain the ISO9001:2015 accreditation for our quality management systems, helping ensure the highest standards for our solutions and services. We demonstrated this commitment to high environmental standards in choosing manufacturers and products for this project. Our manufacturers and suppliers use eco-friendly packaging materials to minimise package size and waste bulk. 

They partner with certified providers to utilise accredited compostable, environmentally sustainable materials from corn and ocean-bound plastics. We are committed to taking further initiatives to decrease single-use plastics to mitigate our impact on climate change.

Such consideration is reflected in our packaging Re-use, Repurpose before Recycle practices, significantly reducing waste associated with this and all our projects. 

At DARTeC, we calculate that more than 4 cubic metres of recyclable waste was captured 
by this process.

Technologically, the project required us to install class-leading large-format LED technology from Samsung.

Despite their size, 3m and 7.2m wide, the units are supremely energy efficient, one of the best in the market. Using the latest advanced screen technology resulted in extended product life and reduced environmental impact in their use.

We also ensured high standards were demonstrated across all of our supply chains in carbon reduction and waste management, opting for road delivery over air freight and the utilisation of UK suppliers wherever possible. Solutions for the DARTeC project were considered for their sustainability whilst allowing for future proofing, which was at the heart of our design philosophy. This closely aligns with the environmental sustainability goals of the DARTeC project.

Evolution rather than replacement formed a fundamental part of the project strategy allowing additions to the system without replacing cabling.

 The resultant longevity and system lifespan significantly reduce electronic waste, packaging, and labour over the entire duration of the system life cycle.

We worked to achieve the environmental goals embraced by Cranfield University’s Energy and Environment team and deliver their energy and environment objectives in line with ISO50001:2011 & ISO14001. The framework for setting and achieving the university’s environmental goals. 

We positively contributed to BREEAM standards with a particular focus on management and energy. These requirements influenced the need to design advanced automation systems, reduce energy waste, and ensure unused equipment powers down automatically and unoccupied rooms do not remain lit or active.

By programming and integration of the correctly selected equipment, GVAV has helped ensure that energy is only used when necessary, reducing CO2 and equipment’s environmental impact over its life.

We are always aware of the environmental impacts of transportation associated with projects such as this. We can reduce project miles and associated environmental impact thanks to our multi-branch, local logistics and pre-integration techniques.

Having worked with GV for many years, we were very confident in having them deliver the university’s largest AV project to date. What was delivered was a state-of-the-art facility that has exceeded everyone’s expectations and I thank GV for a job well done.

Charles McManus

IT Projects Manager | Cranfield University