As part of a technology partnership worth £1.5m, BAE Systems and UK Sport have tested wheelchairs used in the London 2012 Paralympics in a wind tunnel normally reserved for fighter jets.
The tunnel is used to test fighter jets, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, at speeds of over 200mph. Engineers and scientists showed how the wheelchair racers interact with the air around them, simulating racing speeds of over 30mph.
BAE Systems’ team used a kind of data called computational fluid dynamics to advise UK Paralympians on how to optimise their performance by educating them on how their body position affects aerodynamics in races.
As well as training athletes, BAE Systems has designed a new and improved version of the wheelchair in partnership with UK Sport, aerodynamic specialists TotalSim and DRAFT, a wheelchair manufacturer, pictured above.
The new wheelchair will have improved rolling resistance in wheel alignment and tyre pressure, as well an improvement in the structural strength of the of the wheelchair frame.
Kelvin Davies, BAE Systems Project Manager for the Technology Partnership commented: “This is a truly unique partnership, which uses defence and security technology and thinking to help improve the performance of elite athletes.”
A senior coach from the UK Athletics Paralympic Program commented on the huge benefits the kinds of technology from BAE Systems offers: “Disability sport is becoming increasingly competitive and wheelchair racing in particular is one of the most fiercely competitive of all events. With that in mind, we have to maximize every opportunity to ensure that our attention to detail is second to none in a fast-progressing sport.”