McLaren To Use F1 Technology In Improving Heathrow Airport
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Posted By: Matt Meadows  |  04 Mar 2014   |  7:03 pm GMT  |  56 comments

With the changes in F1 technical regulations this year to small capacity hybrid turbo engines, placing the emphasis on resource efficiency, innovations in F1 will increasingly filter down into the automotive and other industries and this will be an important story for the sport to tell.

Today, however, we saw a good example of existing F1 technology being repurposed for applications which have no connection with automotive, but which also aim to reduce environmental impact; in this case in aviation.

McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT), part of the McLaren Group, are to work alongside a consortium of technological development companies to improve the efficiency and infrastructure at London’s Heathrow Airport, it has been announced today.

Using its simulation and real-time data assessment tools developed through F1, MAT will focus on improving the World’s busiest airport’s movement on the ground as live stand reallocation and traffic updates make for a shorter turn-around time.

MAT will also make use of their simulation equipment, providing CAD representations to develop long-term plans and ascertain the most efficient layout of the growing site.

The consortium, which is to be led by the global leader in air traffic control and airport performance NATS, is under a four-year contract to deliver capacity management as the airport currently sees 191,200 passengers touch down and take off every day.

It is well known in Formula One, however, that on the Sunday morning of the British Grand Prix, Silverstone acts as the busiest airport on the planet with the endless line of helicopters entering the Oxfordshire circuit.

“The combination of Formula 1 and one of the world’s busiest airports may seem unlikely, but at both Grand Prix races and Heathrow Airport we are seeking to achieve very similar goals – to increase efficiency, maintain the highest levels of safety and continually improve performance,” said Geoff McGrath, Vice President of McLaren Applied Technologies.

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56 Comments
  1. Andrew S says:

    James – didn’t they also do something with a ‘monitor’ in a hospital a while back? 1 maybe 2 years?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, a heart hospital I think with the F1 ECU connected to patients!!

      1. Rob Newman says:

        Whoa …!!!

      2. Michael says:

        Next they’ll be using KERS for marathon runners… ;)

      3. Random 79 says:

        Cool, sounds good…but where do they put the button?

      4. Mark Robinson says:

        I think Jenson prefers to be referred to as “Mr Button” rather than “the button”. ;-)

    2. Phil R says:

      They also used pit stop best practice to improve the handover of patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

      1. Random 79 says:

        Just so long as they don’t end up with any loose nuts.

    3. Kevin McDonald says:

      It was a TED presentation Peter van Manen delivered with regards to McLaren’s telemetry data being used to measure the outputs from a premature babies heart, and recognise changes far more efficiently than current medical equipment.

      It was a very interesting presentation:

      http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_van_manen_how_can_formula_1_racing_help_babies

  2. Gaz Boy says:

    This is such a great idea – if it reduces congestion/delays/misery (delete as applicable) at Heathrow it will be a great idea!
    To be honest, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more flow of ideas from F1 to the aviation industry before – considering an F1 car is effectively an aircraft with reverse principles there has to be some significant cross-over. I think I’m right in saying carbon-fibre was pioneered by the RAF and was used mainly in the aircraft industry until one day a certain Mr John Barnard of Wembley and Watford College of Technology investigated the idea of using this ground breaking material for a monocoque F1 chassis.
    And that ground breaking material has without doubt saved many lives and limbs since it was introduced to F1 in 1981.

    1. Gaz Boy says:

      Incidentally, when McLaren pioneered the carbon fibre composite chassis in 1981, it was dismissed by a lot of other teams as being unsafe – the theory being in a big impact it would turn to dust. John Watson’s life may have been saved by the strength of carbon fibre when he had a massive shunt at the 1981 Italian grand prix at the second Lesmo and yet walked away without a scratch.

    2. AMC says:

      I think at the time someone told John Barnard that he should call a company called Hercules in the US as they were very experienced in using carbon fibre. So he and RD put through the call and as they say, the rest is history.

    3. Also – the bonding techniques that McLaren developed for new materials has been passed over to space and satellite technologies. My father’s satellite manufacturing business acquired just such bonding technology from McLaren.

  3. Gizmo says:

    Since so much of modern F1 technology has its roots in aerospace, it is good to see F1 giving back.

    1. James Allen says:

      Good point! Materials and aerodynamics especially

    2. Rob Newman says:

      Ferrari Red paint – FRED is also used by NASA.

      1. Gaz Boy says:

        Never knew that!

      2. Rich C says:

        Yes, they use it to paint big rocket flames on the back of the spacecraft.

  4. Rehan says:

    Being a die hard Mclaren fan I wished they really focused on getting back to winning ways rather than acclaiming these fancy accolades.. Sure all of this means a lot but the essence of Mclaren is on the race track.. All these things wud look nice on the side if they were winning championships.. Cmon Mclaren bring it on.. Please..

    1. Jonathan says:

      They are not mutually exclusive. It is another way in which they create income – just like having a sponsor – except they own the sponsoring business. It helps build economies of scale and allows a larger more flexible workforce … that can be called on to help out the F1 team when needed.

    2. Sure, if have just a narrow focus on the objective of winning then you might argue a good case but you would be missing the whole point. You could win at the expense of everything else, being inefficient in use of resources and harming the environment, your opposition and the sport. However, the sport has long had the view that it had to be relevant beyond the race track to be sustainable. Their sponsors and technical partners are in it to try and get benefits outside of racing and society as a whole benefits if the best technical and engineering brains enable the improvement of industries away from the race track. In this respect, McLaren and Williams are the clear leaders.

      1. Rehan says:

        Arent redbull and ferrari doing exactly that.. they are massive spenders in f1 and look how successful they have been over the years. My point is the primary focus of an f1 team should be to win and once that is done regularly maybe then you could move onto things like these..taking nothing away from mclaren i hope this season they can prove me wrong by winning and excelling in extra curricular activities.

      2. Well, yes but what they are doing is not sustainable for the sport – hence the drive to make the sport more relevant to other idustries and the introduction of budget caps. Red Bull and Ferrari use F1 as marketing platforms to sell existing products and simply use the cache of F1 association to help command premium prices and high profit margins. Williams and McLaren are taking F1 technology to advance other industries and areas of society. Red Bull and Ferrari can survive simply on their own marketing budgets but attract other partners because they want to be associated with winners. Other teams rely more directly on the sponsorship they can raise so HAVE to make themselves more relevant to other industries and help the sport be more attainable for the sponsors’ markets in order to survive. Winning just attracts sponsors with bigger budgets.

    3. Yak says:

      It’s not like the F1 team are occupying their time with this stuff. This is McLaren Applied Technologies. It’d almost be like saying if Red Bull put less into their energy drink business, maybe they wouldn’t be in the seemingly horrible position they’re in this year.

      1. Good point, well made.

  5. Marcelo Leal says:

    Since the days of Senna, I think every Brazilian is a McLaren fan.
    But MW management was a disaster! Lewis was promoted to F1 in 2007 while McLaren was managed by RD, and was almost WDC in his rookie year! In the next he did…
    After that, the MW administration started to show his total lack of capacity to run the team!
    Terrible cars, and bring JB to the team was really, really wrong. First, because he is not a top driver, and the fact that he is from UK divided the team and fans. Very, very bad for a team that needs to beat RB and Ferrari. Imagine if Ferrari would hire a Italian driver to be Alonso’s team mate… JB took good points from LH and look at RB, or Ferrari… just one driver in each team, and both have decided the WDC every year from 2010!
    Massa helped Kimi in 2007, and Kimi was WDC that year.. Kimi helped Massa in 2008 and Massa almost got the WDC. Hamilton got it, but not because Kova helped him, but because Kova did not put his car in the way.
    After all these errors, MW lost the fastest driver after Senna, and created the worst line-up of McLaren teammates of all time (at least that I remember). Two very “medium” drivers…
    Knowing that Mercedes is ine of the best (if not the best engine in F1), McLaren is switching the engine next year to Honda. Can you believe that? Honda is a hige company, but with all the complexity in this new engine, where do you think McLaren will be in the next season? When all the teams will be just evolving their cars, McLaren will have a new engine and will need (I think), a new car..
    Really, LH is a genius at the wheel, and seems to be the same out of it. Following his career from a long time, seeing many awesome overtakes and so on, the move from McLaren to Mercedes was as great as any of his track ones!

    1. Voodoopunk says:

      “and bring JB to the team was really, really wrong. First, because he is not a top driver”

      …and yet they have the same amount of world championships…

    2. Jonathan says:

      There is no way McLaren could go on using the Merc PU for much longer. Sauber will never be allowed to beat Ferrari! Honda have been learning an awful lot about the new PUs in the last few weeks. They will be very busy analysing sound files and an enormous amount of data that nobody can prevent them from accessing.

      Much of the basic parameters of the PU are fixed so Honda will be concentrating on getting basic bits in place. It is almost impossible to believe that their new engine will not be vast improvement on the Renault – and no reason why it cannot be class leading next year.

    3. Random 79 says:

      Relax Marcelo, he’s gone…

      1. Marcelo Leal says:

        Do you know what, you are completly right! ;-)
        I did forget that!
        I’m a huge fan of McLaren and Lewis, and was really tough to watch what this man did with the team. And reading the above article, remembered me of how a high tech McLaren team is, and how they have struggled these last years…

    4. Yeah – but what has all that got to do with the above story?

    5. DH says:

      “bring JB to the team was really, really wrong…the fact that he is from UK divided the team and fans.”

      And Lewis Hamilton is from….where exactly?

    6. yellowbelly says:

      “Honda is a hige company, but with all the complexity in this new engine, where do you think McLaren will be in the next season?” (sic)

      At a guess, £100M better off, a works team, and free engines!

    7. Phil R says:

      Couple of things:

      It was Ron Dennis who brought Jenson to the team. Martin Whitmarsh had a contract all lined up with Nick Heidfeld for 2010, went on holiday, and came back to find out Ron had got Jenson.

      Secondly, it was Ron who got annoyed Lewis so much that he left. Just prior to the Singapore GP Lewis had said to the team and friends that he was going to stay with McLaren, but then found out something in the background about what RD had been up to and so was wavering when his gearbox went and Niki Lauda then saw him in his hotel room to give the hard sell.

      Also, if this year’s McLaren is competitive, it will be a Whitmarsh management team that will have produced it.

    8. Gaz Boy says:

      Lewis is a genius at the wheel? Do you mean a genius for running into/having a collision with practically every front running driver on the grid?
      Not beating up on Lewis, but he committed the cardinal sin – don’t clash with your team-mate – in Canada 2011. Who was at fault at Montreal is not the issue; the issue was Lewis put himself at risk and ruined his race. I would say if Lewis can stop running into his fellow competitors he will be certainly be a championship contender.
      If…………F1 spelt backwards!

  6. Random 79 says:

    So if next time you’re passing through Heathrow Airport you happen to notice a giant F-Duct on the side you’ll know why :)

    1. aezy_doc says:

      Maybe Aeroplanes could do with an F-Duct, DRS and KERS. You’d get to America from the UK before you left.

    2. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

      Heathrow F-duct, that’ll be the secret tunnel that goes from check-in to lost luggage that the baggage handlers drop every tenth case down…

      1. Random 79 says:

        Yes, but for a performance gain you can block it with your knee ;)

    3. Gaz Boy says:

      Don’t forget the fuel tender, catering trucks and fire engines with that new mushroom/fungus suspension as well!

  7. Rockie says:

    Mclaren is really developing into a really diversified company.
    One can not but admire Ron Dennis what he has built is astonishing!

  8. Dave says:

    Off topic but… Does anyone know what happened to Martin Whitmarsh?

    1. Random 79 says:

      James answered that in the first reply to the final comment of the previous article.

      I’ve set your GPS so just follow the sexy voice :)

    2. I think he was last seen entering Heathrow airport muttering something about trying to improve traffic flow management. Word has it that the the building air conditioning exhausts are being used to blow onto the roads outside the terminals to improve the speed of traffic.

  9. George says:

    Whenever we hear the talk about Maca’s world beating tech I have to reflect on how long its been since they won a title. Maybe JB was 2nd a few years ago but its the top step were after! Had to wonder about JB being third from bottom of the lap count in test 3..
    Fingers Xd they pull it together which is probably less of the world beating tech, and more of the raw grit and brain power.

  10. Balsac says:

    Who said F1 does not filter down to the real world. On the weekend I was driving down the highway and seen a wheel carcass on the side of the road and thought wow a high preformance Pirelli

  11. Dave Emberton says:

    So what they’re actually doing is using some of their software to help organise and plan the movement of vehicles around Heathrow?

    Which is great, but it’s hardly F1 technology. No carbon fibre, aerodynamics, and certain nothing to do with the new ERS systems.

    Sorry to be a cynic.

    1. Rich C says:

      Are they are going to plant a big chip in the union steward’s “brain”? *That’s where they need to focus: the people, (the software) not the “hardware”.

  12. Dave Emberton says:

    And Silverstone isn’t in Oxfordshire.

  13. Rayz says:

    As an air traffic controller myself, I am sceptical as to how much of an impact this collaboration can really have. Heathrow is operating at full capacity already and when things go wrong (ie: bad weather, missed slot times for departures, unexpected delays etc) it’s normally the human brain that can come up with the most inventive solution. That’s why air traffic control still has a human controller in charge of the skies rather than a super computer. It’s the reason why you still have two pilots in charge of an aircraft even though modern day aircraft can in theory fly themselves. I’m sure that McLaren’s technology can be of some use but that use is severely limited in my opinion. Still, it’s good to see that all forms of the transport sector are at least monitoring the technological innovations that F1 has come up with and try to introduce and apply similar theories to their own scenarios.

    I can’t help but agree with the general tone of the comments on here so far though, McLaren could and perhaps should be devoting all it’s efforts into getting back to winning ways. The McLaren group has branched out into much more than simply an F1 team in recent years and the correlation is clear for all to see…. success on the track has slipped away. If Timo Glock’s dry tyres had held up for a few seconds more at Interlagos 2008, we could well be talking about a McLaren team who’s last champion was Mika Hakkinen. And that is a scary thought quite frankly.

    1. Rajesh kallur says:

      The point is that the mclaren tools and technology is to help guide the the air traffic controller in his or her decision making. It can analyze huge amounts of data at faster rates real time simultaneously and summarize it’s findings, something that a highly effective air traffic controller could not easily do. The decision still lies with the human. It actually widens the envelope for the air traffic controller by enabling faster, better more informed decisions.

  14. Rich C says:

    Apparently you have not yet received your MCU implant, or you would be spouting the McLaren party line!
    Better get ready for that! I can’t say in a ‘family’ channel where they will put it, but lets just say you won’t be sitting down at your console immediately after the procedure!

    1. Rich C says:

      That was @ Rayz, btw.

    2. Random 79 says:

      Somewhere you don’t get a lot of sunshine perhaps? ;)

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