Conducting an Experimentation Run
To deliver on pioneering goals, Syroco is developing exploration and discovery research, which stimulates innovation. Experimentation is therefore an important field for the entire team: our vision is one of investing in scientific research. Now that the team has celebrated the first stable flight, Chloé Papolla, in charge of experimentation and testing at Syroco, and Sinbad Champroux, Syroco’s boat captain, invite us to dive into the intense atmosphere of an experimentation run!
What is the purpose of these experimentation runs?
Each system of the speedcraft must be constantly validated and optimised. Among the various systems developed, we find the nacelle, the foil, the shaft (which links the foil and the nacelle), the kite, the kite control system etc. Syroco's experiments are scheduled to test these systems. Thus, any modification made to any of these systems must be, in a first phase, tested in the workshop, then in a second phase, tested "in the field", which in our case generally means at sea.
Syroco’s policy is to perform as many tests as possible in all areas. This leads us to run experiments several times a week: the pioneering spirit and the thirst for discovery are at the heart of our DNA. During an experiment, everything is recorded: we observe, we collect data, we process and analyse it, in order to develop better control and improve what can be improved.
What are the different types of experiments?
There are several types of possible experiments: the playing field is vast!
The Syroco team has designed and developed various test platforms, with the aim of testing all the elements of the prototype and then of the speedcraft, both on land and in the open sea. We can mention:
- A platform dedicated to studying the hydrodynamic and aerodynamic behaviour of the nacelle.
- A platform dedicated to dynamic foil studies.
- Two platforms, one terrestrial and the other maritime, dedicated to the development of a radio-controlled kite control system.
In a controlled environment (laboratory)
Because some tests require conditions that we cannot easily find in a natural environment, Syroco also works in collaboration with laboratories for more fundamental studies, in a controlled environment (ex: INSEAN, cavitation tunnel at IreNAV, etc). For example, foil or shaft tests at 150 km/h are being carried out in the lab at this stage.
What are the different stages of an experimentation run?
Organising an experiment is an important part that takes time: each person has a specific role to fulfil before, during and after a test.
Before a test
Before carrying out a test, a preparation phase is in order. This includes:
- Writing the test protocol and defining the objectives.
- Installation of the dedicated platform that will be used.
- Calibration of installed sensors.
- Verification of weather conditions: this weather dependency encourages the team to be agile and reactive, to constantly adapt. We define what are called “windows”, which are alerts, depending on the types of experimentation to be done. There are three types: the code green window (conditions OK), the code orange window (possible evolution towards green) and the code red window (tests are impossible).
- Definition of the duration of the test: from a few hours to a full day. This includes the actual test time and the data acquisition time (which lasts between one and three hours).
- Choice of location: it is decided according to the system to be tested and the weather conditions. We stay mainly on the Marseille sites, with different navigation areas identified for nacelle and foil tests. The Port Saint Louis du Rhône site is generally used for kite control tests.
Safety, to conclude, is the most important point! A risk analysis is carried out before the tests, in order to anticipate, limit and avoid problems as much as possible. Emergency procedures are written. It is important not to be surprised! In particular, we provide for:
- The safety of team members: protective equipment, alert procedures, the nearest emergency services.
- Equipment safety (installation of mechanical and electrical fuses).
- The security of the environment in which the tests take place.
During the test
Remaining focused and reactive are key: everyone must be attentive to the slightest event. The team is prepared to deal with all situations, to make corrections on the spot and to be agile. As mentioned before, safety is the most important point: the team remains very vigilant and ready to operate quickly, whether the issue applies to a person or equipment. The team members all have a well-defined role, such as zodiac pilot, foil pilot, kite pilot, data analyst, diver, media manager, etc.: everyone knows exactly what they have to do.
After the test
Once the objectives of the test have been achieved, it is time to return to the workshop where the “rest of the day” begins! The team is involved in the storage of equipment, the debrief of the test, the analysis of the data acquired by our numerous sensors placed on the various systems and the reporting. Many hours are allocated to these final stages: observation, data processing and interpretation of results.
Sometimes we have a little time left to grab a drink together and celebrate a milestone reached.
Carrying out an experiment therefore requires strong discipline, from all the team. Beyond the technical skills, the Syroco team embodies a true pioneer spirit. And it is through thoroughness and experimentation that we continue to make progress!