Airbus engineers have developed a scale-model aeroplane with the first in-flight, flapping wing-tips that could revolutionise aircraft wing-design.
The Airbus has drawn on nature (albatross marine bird ) to develop its ‘semi-aeroelastic hinge’ concept to reduce drag and overall wing weight, while combating the effects of turbulence and wind gusts.
Known as AlbatrossOne, the remote-controlled aircraft has already taken its first flights to prove the concept and the team will now conduct further testing before the demonstrator, based on the manufacturer’s A321 plane, is scaled-up further.
“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, north 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 next step is to conduct further tests to combine the two modes, allowing the wing-tips to unlock during flight and to examine the transition,” he added.
The team presented their research at the International Forum on Aeroelasticity and Structural Dynamics conference in the United States this week.