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Source: Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University – Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University –

On January 17, the advanced engineering school “Digital Engineering” of Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) was visited by the outstanding Russian traveler Fyodor Konyukhov with a team of expedition organizers. The main purpose of the visit was to get acquainted with the interim results of two projects that are being carried out by engineers from the NIS SPbPU. This is the development of a balloon gondola design for a flight over Russia and the design of a fairing for a motorized paraglider for a flight to the North Pole.

The famous traveler and his team were welcomed by the Vice-Rector for Digital Transformation of SPbPU, Head of the Advanced Engineering School of SPbPU Alexey Borovkov. He thanked the guests for their visit and emphasized the importance of such meetings for precise coordination of ongoing work, given the high complexity of the tasks and limited time. So, already in March of this year, Fyodor Konyukhov, together with Ivan Menyailo, plan to make a flight of more than five thousand kilometers in a hot air balloon in harsh climatic conditions, covering the distance from the Murmansk region to Chukotka.

The basic requirements for a balloon gondola were formulated during visit Fedor Filippovich at PISH SPbPU in May 2023. When designing, it was important to use the best global practices and take into account the experience gained in other air expeditions. Let us recall that in 2016 Fedor Konyukhov established world record, having flown around the Earth in a balloon in 11 days 4 hours 20 minutes. The Morton balloon, in which the traveler traveled more than 35 thousand kilometers, was designed by the famous English company Morton Company. To achieve new aeronautical records, it was necessary to create a modernized gondola design. Specialists from the Advanced Engineering School of the Polytechnic University began solving the problem.

I love St. Petersburg very much, I studied here, I spent my youth here. I am convinced that the Polytechnic University employs not just highly qualified specialists, but also real romantics who are interested in complex tasks “one step forward”, projects of the future. This approach is very close to me. The balloon for setting the world record was built for me in England. But we really want balloons for aeronautics to be made here, and our country has all the technologies necessary for this, there is knowledge and people,” said Fedor Konyukhov.

The key event of the current visit was the demonstration of an interactive VR version of the internal space of the gondola, which was recreated using 3D technologies by the developers of the Laboratory of Industrial Stream Data Processing Systems at NIS SPbPU. It was based on a gondola model developed by engineers and concepts from young designers. The virtual reality approach helped the traveler see the interior from a first-person perspective, check the accessibility of located equipment, evaluate the ergonomics of the cabin, and provide comments on how to improve the space. The VR application for demonstration was made on the domestic 3D engine UNIGINE.

As the authors of the project noted, it was important to maintain a balance of safety and comfort for the participants in the future flight. The pilots will have to spend several days in conditions of negative temperatures and strong winds; landing is possible both on ice and on open water, so it is necessary to ensure the buoyancy of the balloon basket.

When choosing the shape of the gondola, we settled on a square shape in the horizontal plane. We will install additional protection on the outside of the lower corners of the gondola, which will absorb the first impact upon landing and act as a shock absorber so that the landing is soft and the people inside do not receive any injuries. In the event of a splashdown, the design includes elements that will help prevent capsizing,” said Andrey Ivanov, deputy head of the Engineering Center (CompMechLab®) of the SPbPU Institute.

During the demonstration of the interactive VR version of the gondola, travelers and engineers from PISH SPbPU discussed in detail all the details: the optimal location of a berth, a chair for controlling instruments, compartments for personal belongings, storage space for oxygen cylinders, batteries, food and medicine, taking into account weight distribution and requirements for the position of the center of gravity.

In addition, Fyodor Konyukhov’s team was presented with the project of the winners of the federal competition “Young Design-2023” in the category “To the North!”, established by the Advanced Engineering School of St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. A special nomination was created for students of specialized universities and colleges who are ready to offer their ideas for organizing the space of a hot air balloon cabin. 76 young designers from 10 Russian cities competed for victory. Based on the results of the jury’s assessment, winners were selected, whose proposals and constructive findings were also decided to be included in the final project.

A world record always means high technology. And it is always associated with restrictions. This is where the balance of tasks begins to work: how to make it comfortable enough to spend 50-60-70 hours in the air with landing in unpredictable conditions: in deep snow or on ice or open water. Pilots must wait to be found or rescued. That is, a gondola is not just a living space in which you will spend several days, it is also a rescue capsule, a lifeboat for splashdown in such conditions. We set this task to the engineers of the Polytechnic University. This is not an easy task, they have not encountered this before. But what we saw today made us very happy, and I understand that we will receive a high-quality product that will allow us to complete the task and save the lives of our pilots,” summed up the head of the expeditionary headquarters, Oscar Konyukhov.

Another landmark project of PISH SPbPU for another large-scale expedition is the design of a motor paraglider fairing (paraglider) for use in Arctic conditions. This year flight planned Fedor Konyukhov and co-pilot Igor Potapkin to the North Pole. The starting point is the area of Rudolf Island, the northernmost point of Franz Josef Land, where the crew and motorized paraglider will be delivered by the nuclear icebreaker “50 Let Pobedy”. After takeoff, they will have to cover more than 500 km, land on an ice floe and wait for the icebreaker to arrive.

As a preparatory stage, in September 2023, travelers carried out flight to Elbrus region, which ended with a world altitude record for the crew of a two-piece paraglider. Fedor Konyukhov and Igor Potapkin were able to reach a level of 4728 meters, breaking the previous record, which lasted almost 20 years. At the same time, the requirements for the design of a motorized paraglider for use in the Arctic zone were determined. Engineers from PISH SPbPU needed to modernize the design of the aircraft to protect pilots from the wind and polar cold that arise when moving at a speed of 50–60 km/h.

At the end of last year, the paraglider was delivered to the Polytechnic University for 3D scanning, followed by the formation of a geometric 3D model for further design of the fairing to meet the specified requirements and restrictions.

“First of all, the task was to achieve the comfort of the people on the plane,” said Maxim Nikitin, a researcher at the Engineering Center (CompMechLab®) of NIS SPbPU. — An extreme flight is planned, so it is important to think about the volume and location of rescue equipment, as well as space for fuel tanks. We added additional tanks with a volume of about 150 liters to the design, which allows us to significantly increase the possible flight range. The weight of the finished structure is less than 20 kg, which is half as much as originally planned; in addition, the rigidity of the entire aircraft has been increased. This result was achieved through the use of polymer composite materials and the experience gained from other advanced projects.”

Summing up the discussion of the project, the parties entered into a formal cooperation agreement regarding the release of working design documentation for the paraglider fairing to the specified characteristics, with subsequent consultations and designer’s supervision during production. The document was signed by Alexey Borovkov and Mikhail Melikov, General Director of the Fyodor Konyukhov International Travel Center. A number of more working meetings will be organized for an interim assessment of the status of the project. The modernization of the aircraft must be completely completed by the summer of this year.

At the end of the visit, Fyodor Filippovich recorded an interview at the Polytechnic Television Studio, congratulated the university on its upcoming 125th anniversary and agreed to become a guest of the discussion club “You have the floor.”

Note; This information is raw content directly from the source of the information. This is exactly what the source states and does not reflect the position of MIL-OSI or its clients.

Please note; This information is raw content directly from the information source. It is accurate to what the source is stating and does not reflect the position of MIL-OSI or its clients.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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