Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Airbus’ nature-inspired wing demonstrator completes wind-tunnel testing

Airbus has completed wind-tunnel testing of its eXtra Performance Wing demonstrator in its quest to quickly test and accelerate advanced innovative technologies that will decarbonize the aviation industry. The demonstrator model was tested in the Filton wind tunnel near Bristol, England.

Launched last September, the eXtra Performance Wing project takes inspiration from nature to improve wing aerodynamics and performance. It is intended to be compatible with any future aircraft configuration and propulsion system to reduce CO2 emissions.

To make a more efficient aircraft with lower carbon footprints, Airbus is testing wing technologies that are based on the behavior of bird flight with wings. Initially, the technology was introduced at a smaller scale through another Airbus project, AlbatrossONE, which tested semi-aeroelastic hinged wings that – like the seabird – unlocked during the flight when experiencing wind gusts or turbulence. Now, the eXtra Performance Wing will also examine new technologies, including gust sensors, pop-up spoilers, and multifunctional trailing edges to enable active control of the wing.

“The scaled demonstrator will integrate and fly breakthrough wing technologies using a remote-controlled Cessna Citation VII business jet platform in representative flight conditions,” explained Oliver Family, Head of eXtra Performance Wing UK. “The partly 3D-printed wind-tunnel model – expertly built by the aerodynamics team at Airbus’ low-speed, wind-tunnel facility in Bristol – is a scaled-down version of the Cessna jet, incorporating the lightweight, long-span design of the eXtra Performance Wing that will provide the emissions benefits we are striving for.”

The Airbus low-speed wind tunnel at Filton replicates conditions similar to aircraft take-off and landing wind speeds but is also used by external organizations testing F1 cars, ship radar systems, Urban Air Mobility vehicles as well as more conventional aircraft.

“Airbus’ state-of-the-art low-speed wind tunnel is a fantastic way to validate our concepts before flight tests,” added Oliver Family. “Our computational aerodynamic analysis capability is world-class, and the wind tunnel provides another valuable way to measure the performance and capabilities of the aircraft before flight testing. The technologies we have tested in the Filton wind tunnel – many inspired by biomimicry – will now be rapidly integrated for flight testing.”