Phoenix Team Recognised by the Royal Aeronautical Society in Annual Awards

Phoenix Airship

2 December 2020

As part of the Phoenix UAV project, Stirling Dynamics has been recognised by the Royal Aeronautical Society, in their annual Honours, Medals and Awards. The Phoenix project, which was funded by Innovate-UK, has been awarded the Team Bronze Medal.

The Royal Aeronautical Society has been honouring outstanding achievers in the global aerospace industry since 1909 when Wilbur and Orville Wright came to London to receive the Society’s first Gold Medal. Over the years, honouring aerospace achievers in this way has become an annual tradition. The Society’s Awards Programme recognises and celebrates individuals and teams who have made an exceptional contribution to aerospace, whether it is for an outstanding achievement, a major technical innovation, exceptional leadership, or for work that will further advance aerospace.

What made the Phoenix project unique and worthy of being categorised as one of this year’s “major contributions to the advancement of aerospace” was the unique propulsion system that allows it to move through the air like a porpoise through the water. The 15m long, 10.5m wingspan ‘Phoenix’ is an ultra-long-endurance aircraft that spends half its time as a heavier-than-air aeroplane, and the other half as a lighter-than-air balloon. The Phoenix prototype aircraft was flown successfully and repeatedly during indoor flight trials in March 2019 under the command of a fully autonomous flight control system over 120m (the length of the Drystack facility, Trafalgar Wharf, Portsmouth used for the trials), making approximately five transitions from heavier than air to lighter than air in each flight.

The Phoenix team was made up of SME’s, High-Value Manufacturing Catapults and Academia. Stirling Dynamics became involved in the three-year project due to the company’s expertise in the development of steering and diving control algorithms for underwater vehicles in addition to Stirling Dynamics’ knowledge of aerospace systems. Stirling Dynamics designed the Flight Control Laws used during the successful flight and led the development of the Flight Control System in partnership with the MTC (Manufacturing Technology Centre).

On the award win, Stirling’s R&D Manager, Simon Hancock commented: “We are thrilled to hear that the Phoenix project has been recognised by the Royal Aeronautical Society. This was a great opportunity for the team at Stirling Dynamics to work on the full design cycle of an aircraft over a relatively short period – in less than three years, we went from designing the aircraft on whiteboards, through the control law and software development, all the way to assembling the FCS on the aircraft in the test facility, which is remarkably quick. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Royal Aeronautical Society and the rest of the Phoenix consortium; it was a true team effort!”.

For more information on this year’s Royal Aeronautical Society Honours, Medals and Awards winners visit: