The 2018 RAF Engineering Competition attracted plenty of interest, with 20 RAF and over 30 Youth Teams submitting ideas from across the UK and as far afield as Stavanger in Norway. Following an exhausting but enjoyable judging event in October 2017, 10 RAF and 15 Youth Teams were short-listed to proceed to the finals.
True to the intended nature of the competition, ideas ranged far and wide. Simulation, drones, 3-D printing and virtual reality all featured strongly and ideas were applied to several different functional areas. Casualty evacuation techniques, occupational clothing featuring integrated health diagnostics, smart tool control, space junk removal and secure communication services for welfare purposes are examples of just a few of the fantastic innovative ideas that were demonstrated at the finals.
The winning idea in the RAF competition demonstrated the bio-remediation of waste oils and liquids. It adapted a commercial product for use in aircraft maintenance bays, which generate various forms of waste, from grey water to discarded oil. The idea drew the attention of the RAF’s Environmental Safety Officer and has become the subject of a £1M RAF Innovation pilot project to investigate its scalability and cost effectiveness. As well as scooping a cash prize, the winning team from RAF Brize Norton will be involved in the ongoing development of their idea.
A close runner-up in the RAF competition was ‘Project Raven’ from 90 Signals Unit. Their entry demonstrated how in-Service communications equipment could be adapted to provide secure welfare services for personnel serving in out of area operations. The Information Systems and Services organisation (ISS) took great interest in the approach taken by the team and has invited them to present their solution to the ISS Board as an example of smart and agile use of in-Service capabilities.
In the Youth Competition the combined Air Cadet Squadrons from Mold and Ruthin impressed the judges most with their networked flight simulator, featuring VR-emulated scenery and a motion responsive cockpit. The ‘Team’s Team Award’, voted by all participating teams, went to Flitwick Air Cadets for their investigation into flying suits integrated with medical diagnostic sensors. Across the board, several individuals were also awarded for their flair, enthusiasm and ingenuity.
The range and diversity of submissions for the 2018 competition exceeded expectations. The competition provided an outlet for untapped ideas and enabled teams to develop their thoughts, through practical engineering, from concept through design, build and demonstration. Above all, it shone a light on the wealth of innovation, originality and enthusiasm inherent in the minds of today’s operators and the generation to follow.