Airbus’ fello’fly seeks nature inspiration to improve aircraft environmental performance

The concept of flying has always come from humans observing birds in flight and the aerodynamic shape of their curves. Now, Airbus plans to draw inspiration from migratory geese flying in a “V” shape to save energy. Its “fello’fly” program recommends the use of this flight technique, which could save fuel for Airbus ranging from 5 to 10% per trip, help to reduce CO2 emissions in line with its commitments.

Airbus presented its fello’fly program at the Dubai Air Show this week. With Fello’fly, the European aircraft manufacturer said that when two planes follow one behind the other, the turbulence generated by the first creates a wake of rising currents of soft air generating lift. The follower aircraft can benefit directly, and therefore needs less power.

According to Airbus, this flight technique could provide aircraft with a free lift to reduce engine thrust and fuel consumption. Its interest would make sense on long-haul flights, organized in training (in duo or group) with a leading aircraft and one (or more) aircraft (s) followers (s) at a distance sufficient to enjoy the wake of the first.

Infographic fello'fly
Infographic fello’fly

Geese or other migratory cranes fly in a triangle one behind the other. By benefiting the same aerological mechanism, birds burn fewer calories.

Airbus is working on technical solutions that involve pilot assistance functions necessary to ensure that the aircraft remains safely positioned in the updraft of the aircraft they are following, maintaining the same distance, a constant altitude.

The aircraft manufacturer had already conducted a series of flight tests in 2016, demonstrating that kerosene savings could be achieved when two aircraft flew about 3 kilometers apart. Today, air traffic management technology, including real-time flight tracking, has evolved significantly, making it possible for these close flights between two aircraft in the airspace, without compromising security.

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