Engineers working for European aircraft manufactures, Airbus have developed an aeroplane with the first in-flight, flapping wing-tips that could revolutionise aircraft wing-designs in the aviation world.
The engineers have drawn on nature to develop its ‘semi-aeroelastic hinge’ concept to reduce drag and overall aircraft wing weight, while also combating the effects of turbulence and wind gusts on an aircraft. Known as ‘AlbatrossOne’, the remote-controlled aircraft has already taken its first flights to prove the viability of the concept and the Airbus team will now conduct further testing on the project.
“While hinged wing-tips are not new – military jets employ them to allow greater storage capacity on aircraft carriers – the Airbus demonstrator is the first aircraft to trial in-flight, freely-flapping wing-tips to relieve the effects of wind gusts and turbulence,” explained Airbus engineer, Tom Wilson, based in Filton, Bristol, UK.
“We drew inspiration from nature – the albatross marine bird locks its wings at the shoulder for long-distance soaring but unlocks them when wind-gusts occur or manoeuvering is required.
“The AlbatrossOne model will explore the benefits of unlockable, freely-flapping wing-tips – accounting for a up to a third of the length of the wing – to react autonomously during in-flight turbulence and lessen the load on the wing at its base, so reducing the need for heavily reinforced wing boxes,” Wilson added.
Airbus’ Executive Vice-President of Engineering, Jean-Brice Dumont said, the project showed “how nature can inspire us”
“When there is a wind gust or turbulence, the wing of a conventional aircraft transmits huge loads to the fuselage, so the base of the wing must be heavily strengthened, adding weight to the aircraft,” said Dumont.