Harland Simon upgrades drives and controls for QinetiQ’s Haslar cavitation tunnel


Harland Simon was selected by leading science and engineering company QinetiQ to upgrade the control system and drives on their cavitation tunnel facility at Haslar, UK. The cavitation tunnel is a circulating water facility used by marine engineers and hydrodynamic experts to investigate and test ship and submarine propellers.

QinetiQ chose Harland Simon, who installed and commissioned the cavitation tunnel’s existing system of drives and PLCs in the early 1980s, based on their first-hand knowledge of the facility and the support they have been providing over the years.

QinetiQ sought to replace the previous ageing system to ensure a fully working test facility that can be marketed to attract commercial interest. The new design not only gives QinetiQ a reliable system with enhanced diagnostics, but one that can be maintained and supported in terms of spares, repairs and service for many years to come. In addition, the new control system is able to export data, which means that information such as impeller RPM, flow speed in the tunnel and machine run time can be used in QinetiQ’s own reporting system.

Rob Watson, Sales Director at Harland Simon, says: “We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to give the cavitation tunnel a new lease of life and to build on our existing working relationship with QinetiQ.”

QinetiQ’s cavitation tunnel near Portsmouth is the largest commissioned system of its type in the UK and provides the ultimate solution to propeller designers for testing of maritime propulsion devices in representative flows. This helps minimise the risk of cavitation, erosion and vibration levels to avoid costly propeller repairs, fatigue and damage to other components within the vessel.

The tunnel’s control system comprises three DC motors and drives, which can be run independently. One creates and controls the water flow inside the tunnel, the other two are available to drive the propeller under test, whilst accurately controlling its speed.
The upgrade involved the following sections of the cavitation tunnel control system:

  • Model and impeller drives replaced with Allen-Bradley Powerflex digital DC drives
  • Drive controls and displays upgraded to HMI controls
  • Main incoming circuit breakers and cubicle doors replaced
  • Obsolete PLC replaced with an “off-the-shelf” PLC and suitable I/O
  • Experimenter’s desk controls now features a browser-based HMI for easy touch-screen operation
  • Installation of serial interface to third party reporting data logger

The installation of the new control system was completed in July 2016 and is fully backed up by Harland Simon’s technical support desk via telephone and VPN.