In the ever-evolving realm of aerospace innovation, the future of flight lies in the hands of experts at Airbus, a trailblazer in the pursuit of sustainable aviation. Airbus is at the forefront of revolutionizing aircraft wings. The upcoming generation of wings promises to be a game-changer, drawing inspiration from nature and pushing the boundaries of design to enhance fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
We previously learned how wings function and manufactured by Airbus in this series on wings. Airbus UpNext eXtra performance wing demonstrator is a new thing we have to learn.
From the creation of wingtip devices to the use of lightweight composites, aircraft manufacturers have made tremendous technological advances over the years.
Consider the A350, Airbus’ most recent widebody. Though its swept profile offers us a glimpse of what lies ahead, it is quietly familiar. Like all Airbus aircraft, the A350’s trailing edge can be adjusted in midair to maximize its aerodynamic profile, much like a bird’s wing. Less drag and weight result from dynamic repositioning, which lowers total fuel consumption.
A Glimpse into Tomorrow’s Skies:
Imagine a new era of passenger aircraft featuring thinner, lighter, and remarkably elongated wings. This transformative design aims to significantly reduce drag, fuel burn, and emissions. Picture a passenger gazing out at these wings and likening them to a glider—a poetic yet accurate representation of the cutting-edge design that could redefine air travel.
Nature as the Guide:
The future wing features “intelligent” surfaces that draw inspiration from nature, adding to its length. These flexible surfaces, like an eagle’s wings, improve the wing’s ability to respond to different circumstances. Based on the natural world’s adaptability, Airbus is investigating the integration of LIDAR technology to automatically adjust the wing.
Innovation Takes Flight
Airbus is already experimenting with nature-inspired adaptable surfaces through projects like the AlbatrossONE small-scale demonstrator. The eXtra Performance Wing demonstrator, launched by Airbus’ technology incubator UpNext, aims to revolutionize wing design by testing ambitious ideas on a Cessna Citation VII business jet platform.
Looking ahead, Airbus contemplates the impact of open-rotor engines on wing design. Three options – ‘normal,’ ‘high,’ and ‘dry’ – pose questions about efficiency, acoustics, and vibration profiles. In the transition to hydrogen-powered aircraft, considerations arise about storing cryogenically-cooled hydrogen in fuselage tanks and the potential for revolutionary aerodynamic shapes in a ‘dry’ wing.
Airbus’ Wing of Tomorrow R&T programme is at the forefront, exploring over 100 technologies that must prove their robustness before shaping the wings of the future. As impassioned discussions and debates unfold, the ultimate destination for Airbus’ wing makers is a new era of aviation with reduced CO2 emissions, efficiency gains, and groundbreaking design choices.