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SADCO: optimisation on a pan-European scale

Hasnaa Zidani, Commands project-team Hasnaa Zidani, Commands project-team

To mark the first SADCO summer school, we interview its coordinator, Hasnaa Zidani, from the Commands project team, which is developing this project focusing on optimal control. Hasnaa explains why she wants to train young researchers through this programme.

Why did you decide to undertake this type of European project?

Hasnaa Zidani  : Firstly, we wanted to make training through research for PhD students and post-doctoral researchers the core of the project. This seventh FPRTD (framework programme for research and technological development) is vast. We focused on Marie Curie projects and more specifically on an ITN (or “initial training network”). The idea is to help career development for young researchers through a collaborative research project undertaken by multiple European partners. To talk in concrete terms, the project officially began on 1 January 2011 and will last four years involving 11 partners, three of which from industry. The project has received extensive financing to train 25 PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. A personalised research and training programme has been devised for each young scientist within his or her parent structure. Our project stands out by requiring these researchers to spend six months working with another project partner. This means that they are integrated in collaborative projects from the outset, in addition to their professional relations on a day-to-day basis with colleagues from other structures or when another team visits, which ensures genuine exchanges and a very rewarding experience in human and scientific terms. And of course, not only is there training; there’s also research! Project partners boast varied and complementary expertise in production, defence, etc. All this expertise will contribute to doctoral and post-doctoral training.

What exactly is the SADCO research theme?

H. Z.  : In the SADCO project (which stands for “Sensitivity Analysis for Deterministic Controller Design”) we focus on optimisation and specifically on optimal control systems. This means we attempt to establish the rules and control strategies for complex and dynamic systems (those which change over time and in space). The aim is to optimise specific measurements to ensure better performance. Optimal control is a mathematical tool that can be applied to many fields, such as avionics by optimising rocket trajectories, the automotive industry by minimising collision impact, telecoms to establish a satellite’s optimal position and energy through intelligent resource management.

Optimal control can be used in avionics, the automotive industry and energy resource management

We work on optimising and even changing systems, but these are always dynamic systems, which are very complex to manage. For example, when calculating a shuttle orbit there are vast numbers of parameters to be taken into account every second. Closer to home, optimal control can be used on your hybrid car to determine when the electric or combustion engine should be used so as to manage the vehicle’s available energy more efficiently. Optimising dynamic systems has been a very active research field for several decades. More and more applied and theoretical benefits are constantly being found. Current technology is looking for increasingly complex robust systems offering ever-greater performance.

What is the aim of an event like the summer school for this type of project?

H. Z.  : Our partners are committed to collaborative research projects and also to joint training activities. We had a first kick-off event in March 2011: a day focusing on an industrial workshop organised by Astrium for applications in the aerospace sector. The next two days really were the project launch with a meeting of all our partners featuring over a hundred registered participants. The combination of theory and practice was particularly interesting and rewarding. The presentation of research programmes from Europe’s leading industrial operators was a major motivation for young graduates to join ambitious projects, offering as it did a vision of the challenges facing industry tomorrow and of the mathematical tools which must be developed to overcome them. The commitment at team level was clear. As for the summer school, the aim is still to share and to enhance collaboration. There will accordingly be classes on specific aspects of optimal control and its mathematical analysis, along with presentations by well-known OC specialists. Young researchers will also have an opportunity to present their own work and thus share with their colleagues. Our aim is for everyone to leave with new ideas. We will know that discussions have been rewarding if, like the last time, once the summer school is over, researchers continue to share equations and diagrams on a board!

Astos, industrial partner of SADCO

Sven Weikert Dipl.-Ing. Sven Weikert Head of Development and Site Manager Stuttgart

Astos Solutions is specialized on mission analysis and control problems in the aerospace domain. Further key working areas are safety&risk analyses , UAVs and solutions for situational awareness centres. Our optimization, simulation and analysis software ASTOS is an ESA reference software.

Our simulation and analysis domain is very much correlated with mathematical problem formulations and numerical methods. Non-linear programming is used by the aerospace industry since decades. However, many problems require advanced mathematical solutions. Here engineers gain from the support of applied mathematicians with a fundamental technical background. Since several years Astos Solutions has a fruitful cooperation Prof. Bueskens from the University of Bremen and Matthias Gerdts (university of the Bundeswehr, Munich). Due to our working field it is important for us to cultivate such contacts to the mathematical community. The SADCO project is the ideal platform to do this and to get also new contacts and potential partners for industrial and ESA projects. SADCO is also an opportunity to give young mathematical experts an understanding of typical engineering problems. Problems that are sometimes different from typical problems of mathematicians.
 Therefore we see SADCO also as a platform that allows us to influence the education of young professionals.

Keywords: SADCO Commands Optimization Saclay - Île-de-France Europe