Airbus is working on a unique airplane design that involves flapping wing tips, something found on military jets but not commercial aircraft. The company successfully tested a remote-controlled scale-model plane fitted with the flapping wing tips, the company revealed this week. The demonstrator aircraft was based on the company’s A321 plane.
According to Airbus, its flapping wing tips involve a semi-aeroelastic hinge concept that is designed to reduce both overall wing weight and drag while also helping deal with the effects of strong wind gusts and turbulence. The company has installed and tested the wing tip concept on its AlbatrossOne remote-controlled aircraft.
The test flight was a proof of concept, the company said on Thursday, explaining that it will conduct additional tests of the design before scaling up the model to bigger sizes. This represents the first aircraft test of this technology for use against turbulence and wind gusts, and it may revolutionize the future of aircraft wings.
According to the company, using flapping tips on aircraft wings reduces overall weight of the vehicle by reducing the massive loads transmitted to the fuselage in turbulent conditions. As a result, Airbus explained, the wing tips may allow for longer, lighter wings, which reduces drag and potentially improves fuel efficiency.
A 20-month development program led to the first AlbatrossOne demonstrator test flights, which were wrapped up in February. Both lock and unlocked wing tip positions were tested, and planned future tests will combine both of those states to examine how the transition takes place.