Airbus has announced a new fixed wing design that will be developed for use on future aircraft. Called the extra-performing wing demonstrator (EPW), it looks at new technologies that will improve and optimize wing aerodynamics and performance. Airbus to test ‘flexible’ wing design.

Chief Technical Officer Sabine Klauke said during the Airbus Summit on September 22 that the project is not linked to any specific aircraft project, although it’s no secret that Airbus had been looking at various options for an A320-successor under the Wing of Tomorrow project. In 2019, it showed the AlbatrossONE design with freely flapping wing ends for optimized operations. It was based on studies of how the albatross bird behaves in flight and saves energy to extend its range.

The flappy wing ends on the AlbatrossONE demonstrator. (Airbus)

The EPW scaled demonstrator will be tested on a Cessna Citation VII business jet platform in representative flight conditions. “The applications of the extra-performing wing would be compatible with any propulsion solution and aircraft configuration and would reduce CO2 emissions, contributing greatly to Airbus’ decarbonisation roadmap”, Airbus says in a press release.

Klauke says: “With this demonstrator, we will make significant strides in active control technology through research and applied testing of various technologies inspired by biomimicry. ” 

The flexible wing ends are “similar to how an eagle soars, adapting the shape, span and surface of its wings and feathers, this demonstrator allows for increased flight efficiency. 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 trailing edges that dynamically change wing surface in flight and a semi-aeroelastic hinge.”

The project is hosted within Airbus UpNext, which is a wholly-owned Airbus subsidiary created to give future technologies a development fast-track by building demonstrators at speed and scale, in order to evaluate, mature and validate potential new products and services that encompass radical technological breakthroughs.

‘Wing of Tomorrow’ reached a key milestone with the assembly of its first full-size wing prototype The program will not only test the latest composite materials and new technologies in aerodynamics and wing architecture but, importantly, explore how wing manufacturing and industrialisation can be improved to meet future demand as the sector emerges from the pandemic.

Three full-size prototype wings will be manufactured in total: one will be used to understand systems integration; a second will be structurally tested to compare against computer modelling, while a third will be assembled to test scaling-up production and compare against industrial modelling.

Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer, said: “Wing of Tomorrow, a crucial part of Airbus’ R&T portfolio, will help us assess the industrial feasibility of future wing production. High-performing wing technology is one of several solutions – alongside sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen – we can implement to contribute to aviation’s decarbonisation ambition.  Wing of Tomorrow is also an example of how large-scale industry collaboration will be critical to achieving our sector’s agenda for a more sustainable future.”

 

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