A new milestone: The Airbus AlbatrossONE has efficaciously achieved a “gate-to-gate” demonstration, with wing tips that are 75% longer in comparison to those tested in the first phase. This small-scale, aircraft demonstrator featuring ‘semi- aero elastic’ hinged wing tips, recently accomplished a second flight test campaign. This flight test campaign demonstrates freely flapping wing tips can improve wing loads and evade tip stall for better aircraft performance.
The albatross seabird has enlightened aeronautical engineers about improving aircraft performance, because of its uncanny capability to travel over long distances with the slightest fatigue. In addition, putting the principles of freely flapping wing tips, the AlbatrossONE project is taking a keen interest in this majestic seabird.
It’s Chief Engineer James Kirk while discussing the potential of this future aircraft shared, “The albatross’ wing-tips are actually somewhat analogous to semi-aero elastic hinged wing-tips. The albatross can ‘lock’ its wings to travel long distances, but when faced with wind gusts, it can ‘unlock’ to better navigate wind speeds. Thus, the Semi-aero elastic hinged wing-tips behave in the exact same way.”
While sharing his views on what makes semi-aero elastic hinged wing-tips” so innovative, he further added, “Semi-aero elastic hinged wing-tips enable an aircraft to “surf” through wind gusts without transferring the bending loads. This means we require less material, such as carbon-fiber-reinforced polymers, to make the wing strong enough to withstand the gust loads, thus reducing the weight of the aircraft. Also, the length of the wing-tip can be extended without adding weight to the wing because the extra loads from the longer wing-tip are not passed to the main wing.”
However, Project Leader of Semi-Aero elastic Hinge, Tom Wilson stated, “Semi-aero elastic hinged wing-tips are remarkable because they would enable a step-change in aircraft performance: a major increase in wingspan with minimal impact on wing weight would reduce drag, leading to significant reductions in fuel burn and CO 2 emissions. Lift-induced drag accounts for about 40 percent of a large aircraft’s drag. However, this figure falls as the wingspan increases. The semi-aero elastic hinged wing-tips’ span could be increased beyond 50 meters without increasing wing weight.”
The AlbatrossONE team has accomplished a second flight test in July 2020. “All of these tests were highly successful. This involves moving the wing tips from vertical to a horizontal position before the flight, and back again after the flight. We also enabled the wing tips to flap just before lift-off to improve roll control and navigate a high load. They were then locked into planar for an efficient cruise, James said.
On further adding to their successful test, Tom shared, “The ‘gate-to-gate’ demonstration also enabled us to prove freely flapping wing-tips can alleviate wing loads. We also demonstrated how to safely land an aircraft using freely flapping wing-tips without hitting the ground or stops during a separate flight.”
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