Europe-based global major aerospace group Airbus announced on Wednesday that it had initiated a project to flight test what it described as an “extra-performing wing”.
The platform for these tests will be a modified Cessna Citation VII business jet, which will be used to integrate and fly “breakthrough wing technologies ... in representative flight conditions”.
“Airbus’ extra-performing wing demonstrator is another example of Airbus’ novel technology-oriented solutions to decarbonise the aviation sector,” affirmed group chief technology officer Sabine Klauke. “Airbus is continuously investigating parallel and complementary solutions such as infrastructure, flight operations and aircraft structure. With this demonstrator, we will make significant strides in active control technology through research and applied testing of various technologies inspired by biomimicry.”
Biomimicry involves developing technologies which replicate, or mimic, to a greater or lesser degree, the physical capabilities of animals or, in this case, birds. Thus, Eagles can soar high and far because they can alter the shape, span and area of their wings, to always optimise their aerodynamic performance. Eagles, in other words, actively control their wings. Airbus seeks to replicate this ability, at least to some degree.
“Various technology bricks will be investigated to enable the active control of the wing, including: gust sensors, pop-up spoilers or plates that are rapidly deflected perpendicular to airflow, multifunctional training edges that dynamically change wing surface in flight and a semi-aeroelastic hinge,” explained Airbus. These technologies, if successfully integrated on a wing, would increase flight efficiency, and so reduce carbon emissions.
The extra-performing wing, which would incorporate these technologies, would be compatible with any aircraft configuration and propulsion system. The wing that would be fitted to the Citation VII would be ‘scaled’ (allowing extrapolation of test results to the performance of larger versions of the same type of wing).
The project is also intended to accelerate the development of active wing control technologies, as well as test and validate them under real-flight conditions. It has the potential to make a major contribution to the group’s decarbonisation programme. The extra-performing wing project is being run by wholly-owned Airbus technology fast-track development subsidiary Airbus UpNext. No timescale for the project has been released.