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Create a lasting legacy for the iconic Vulcan bomber

01 July 2016

Engineers are helping to preserve the legacy of the iconic Vulcan XH558 bomber by creating a ‘virtual tour’ of the aircraft that will be used in a new educational program.

Image courtesy of Darren Grove/Shutterstock

The engineers are from the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The Vulcan, an iconic example of British aerospace innovation, was restored by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, returning the aircraft to flight in 2007, 14 years after it was retired from RAF service.

Having completed its last flying season in 2015, witnessed by thousands in the UK and abroad, the aircraft is now permanently on display at Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport, where it will become the centrepiece of a new educational program planned by the Trust.

The program has been designed to show young people what can be achieved with a career in engineering and inspiring a new generation of scientists, designers, engineers and aviators.

AMRC metrology engineers approached the Trust to offer their scanning and measurement capabilities to capture the aircraft in a 3D model that they then used to create a ‘virtual tour’ of the legendary bomber.

Richard James, Metrology group manager for the AMRC, said: “Vulcan to the Sky want the virtual tour to form an integral part of their educational initiative.

“It will help the Trust enhance their public outreach, allowing unprecedented access to the aircraft, with the public being able to see all around and inside the aircraft in great detail.”

The group scanned the aircraft using a spherical scanner (Surphaser) to capture multiple point clouds, from which data can be used for reverse engineering projects such as 3D printing a model.

They then use a 360° NCtech iStar panoramic camera supplied by MD 3D, a UK company who provide metrology devices, to create the related virtual tour imagery, and also allowing for colourisation of the point cloud for ease of use when viewing.

The technology and process used to scan the aircraft is commonly utilised in the manufacturing sector to create factory layout simulations, for large volume scanning and processing of large amounts of scan data.

The metrology group have applied this technology to projects outside the manufacturing sector as a way to preserve historical data, recently scanning a medieval ossuary at Rothwell Charnel Chapel and Ossuary Project in Nottinghamshire. The data has provided a virtual model to assist archaeologists in preserving the site for future generations.

Richard hopes the same will happen for the Vulcan: “Not only will the virtual model and tour maintain and promote the legacy of the Vulcan for educational purposes; it can also be used as a vital resource for maintaining and repairing legacy aircraft.”

Robert Pleming, chief executive of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, said: “The results of AMRC’s work to produce a virtual tour are truly amazing. I’m sure that the virtual tour will become a significant contributor to our educational activities around the Vulcan. Thank you AMRC, most sincerely.”

To view the virtual tour, find information about visiting the Vulcan in Doncaster and news about the Trust’s new project just announced on returning an English Electric Canberra to flight, visit the Vulcan to the Sky Trust website at:

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