Innovation That Matters

The experimental wing design is inspired by eagles | Photo source Airbus UK

Adaptable aeroplane wings change shape when in flight

Mobility & Transport

The wings adapt to current conditions, helping to increase flight efficiency

Spotted: Taking inspiration from the effortless flight of eagles soaring high above the ground, with what looks like barely any movement from their wings, the Airbus UpNext innovation incubator created the eXtra Performance Wing demonstrator. The prototype aeroplane wing changes shape as required by the surrounding air currents and weather conditions in order to maintain maximum flight efficiency.

The performance wing expands or contracts its span, shape and surface volume. The technology extends into the aeroplane as well, with additional features being tested including hinges in the wing; trailing elements that can also change shape and size; pop-up spoilers; and gust sensors. The design would provide a mix of management options, with some aspects of the wing controlled by flight teams and others automatic based on what conditions are detected at the time.  

The incubator is part of Airbus’ plan to reduce carbon emissions within the aviation industry, and the performance wing recently completed its first round of wind-tunnel testing at a size equivalent to a Cessna Citation VII business jet. The wind tunnel tests replicate the speed and conditions of take-off and landing, and further analysis of the aerodynamics will be completed, along with additional testing, before in-flight trials begin. 

Aviation innovations are examining all aspects of flight, seeking improvements in sustainability at every point. Recent innovations spotted by Springwise focus on creating vertical take-off and landing capabilities and using biomimicry, such as a sharkskin-inspired film on wings, to increase efficiency. 

Written by: Keely Khoury

Email: aeron.haworth@airbus.com

Website: airbus.com/en/innovation/innovation-ecosystem/airbus-upnext

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