Thrust WSH project at Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week

Taking place at Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week is an exclusive showcase of the ThrustWSH project, headed by Richard Noble OBE. Visit them for the launch of a crucial survey about recruitment challenges.

The ThrustWSH project is the follow on from the team’s previous World Record projects – the 1983 Thrust2 World Land Speed record 633mph, the 1997 ThrustSSC first ever supersonic land speed record 763mph and the 1000MPH BloodhoundSSC project which was lost due to non payment of a formal grant offer. The ThrustSSC project is the only one to ever create and deliver a supersonic land speed record. There have been no further successful challenges since then.

During the 12 year programme of the 130,000hp 1000mph BloodhoundSSC project  - the Ministry of Defence requested the initiation of a schools programme to increase student interest in STEM subjects. That programme was a most successful achievement engaging with over 2m schoolchildren and during 1997 engaging with 120,000 students and school children. This request by the MoD came about because of their issues with the quality of applicants and dissatisfaction with overall recruitment standards.

The key feature of the schools programme was the importance of the projects Open IPR policy which allowed the education programme to present live project data and solutions to the schools thus allowing students to follow and understand the projects engineering and physical performance as the project developed.

After the loss of BloodhoundSSC, it appeared that there were similar and increasing difficulties being experienced by manufacturing industries. It was therefore idecided to attempt a further Open IP record breaking project – the prime objective being to recover the education impetus from the lost Bloodhound project and advance further promotion of STEM subjects. It appears that to get serious student buy-in a major innovative record breaking project was needed.

The team chose the World Water Speed Record for two reasons. It has a history of extreme danger and accidents which might be mitigated but only by developing a new high technology design solution from first principles. This would be ideal for education purposes. The record could be challenged in the UK on a Scottish Loch instead of the land speed record desert tracks in locations such as the USA and South Africa. The record has stood since 1978 to the Spirit of Australia team at 317mph. All subsequent attempts have ended in failure.

As suspected when we began our research, the development of a stable and controllable craft operating at our target speed of 450mph project turns out to be extremely difficult to develop responsibly. Starting in 2020, development was initiated with an initial design which evolved via 17 design iterations via an extensive computational fluid dynamics programme. Working with Leeds University and Imperial College on aerodynamics this was further developed with QinetiQ with the addition of hydrodynamic research. Data collected from instrumented model boats was also used to cross check the CFD results.

At this point it was realised that a “planing” hydroplane design was far too dangerous because of extreme instability in pitch – nose up. Working with QinetiQ plc we turned instead to a highly innovative solution to check the viability of a 450mph hydrofoil design using super- cavitation technology. This would enable the critical pitch stability to be controlled using advanced technology moving four foils on short struts at 100 movements per second to maintain stability across the speed range. The results so have showed this a viable solution.

With a team of 34 volunteers including three Naval Architects and three ex Rolls-Royce Chief Engineers the project advanced to the point where the CFD programmes needed to be further validate by more physical testing. The team are now building a 25% 3metre 225mph autonomous jet powered C3.2B test boat which will start runs for data collection in the summer. 35 UK companies are taking part.

The focus on the research, design and engineering has been so demanding that the all important education programme had to stand by until the design team were satisfied that the programme could be advanced. The serious difficulties with recruitment experienced by the manufacturing industries were confirmed by a feature in the Sunday Times of March 17th 2024. Together, The Manufacturer, Page Group Ltd, Bradford University and Leeds University decided to join with ThrustWSH to promote a survey of UK manufacturers to establish and define exactly what the recruitment difficulties are. This will focus the proposed education programme appropriately.

The survey will be launched at the SMEW Exhibition June 5/6  where there will be a ThrustWSH  exhibition stand and where visitors can engage with key ThrustWSH team members to discuss the research programme. The resulting ThrustWSH Education Programme will be carried out by the same team who developed the highly successful Bloodhound Education Programme and experienced the considerable demand both at schools and at education exhibitions.

It is important to understand that while the project in the later stages of the research programme this will not be completed until end of 2024 when data from the physical testing and the CFD research will be combined and optimised to develop the final design ready for build in 2025 and operations in 2026.

But the importance of the education programme survey is now crucial to the entire programme and therefore must proceed.

Richard Noble, Director Thrust Boats Ltd

Register now to see the ThurstWSH Project