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Shield Aerodynamics Develops Bird Strike Solution

November 5th, 2014 by Rebecca Norman

Shield Aerospace logoPine Bluff-based Shield Aerodynamics LLC is developing a patent-pending Environmental Defense Shield (EDS) to protect jet engines from bird strikes.

“Bird strikes to engines costs the aircraft industry billions of dollars each year in repair costs and generate over 500,000 hours of airport operations downtime in the U.S.,” said Wayne Duncan, product development manager of Shield Aero.

Shield Aero’s EDS design is expected to reduce annual fuel consumption by 2.5 percent as well as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide levels. “For commercial aircraft, this 2.5 percent cruise fuel consumption can equal hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel saving per jet per year. For example, one 747 uses approximately 13 million gallons per year. At an average of $2.91 per gallon, each one percent reduction in drag represents $378,300 per year in fuel savings,” he noted.

Earlier this year, Shield Aero received a $90,000 award from the Arkansas Development Finance Authority in the form of a convertible loan through ADFA’s Arkansas Risk Capital Matching Fund. The funding allowed Shield Aero to engage two computational fluid dynamics companies for simulation studies. Based on the simulation results, Shield Aero will be able to test and make design improvements in the hardware version.

Shield Aero has been an Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center client since its inception in 2012.

“The ASBTDC conducted market studies for us that we were able to incorporate into our presentation to ADFA. One of the requirements for the ARCMF [application] was that we present a business plan. Rudy Ortiz of the ASBTDC worked countless hours reviewing and making suggestions as we went through that painstaking process, and all of their services were free,” Duncan said.

When asked about his advice for other innovative companies that seek research and development funding, he responded, “If I were to begin again, I would start with the ASBTDC. After getting assistance from ASBTDC and other state resources to develop application materials, the next logical step is going to ASTA [Arkansas Science & Technology Authority] or ADFA, who have both been of irreplaceable importance to our progress.”

One of Duncan’s lessons learned since the company’s launch was that a solution that is looking for a problem is hard to sell to investors. “For instance, the original purpose that we intended to solve was loss of [passenger] life caused by bird strikes to aircraft engines. We learned that the chance of loss of life is minuscule and that industry participants are more concerned with damage costs and fuel consumption. Discussion with industry participants allowed us to hone in on their concerns,” he said.

Next steps for Shield Aero include working with the Air Force Academy on transitioning their design for specific Air force aircraft models. They are in discussions with a leading aircraft manufacturer regarding a joint-venture to adapt their EDS design for their best-selling jet model.

“The market for our product is huge and growing each year. We hope to provide value for anyone who needs our jet engine protection technology.”