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Airbus ramps up development of new wing technologies
Thursday, 23 September 2021
Wing of Tomorrow has reached a key milestone with the assembly of its first full-size wing prototype, while Airbus has also announced an extra-performing wing demonstrator project based on a Citation VII airframe.

Wing of Tomorrow, the Airbus research and technology programme, has reached a key milestone with the assembly of its first full-size wing prototype. It will test the latest composite materials and new technologies in aerodynamics and wing architecture and also explore how wing manufacturing and industrialisation can be improved to meet future demand as the sector emerges from the pandemic.

Three full-size prototype wings will be manufactured in total: one will be used to understand systems integration; a second will be structurally tested to compare against computer modelling, while a third will be assembled to test scaling-up production and compare against industrial modelling.

Sabine Klauke, Airbus chief technical officer, says: "Wing of Tomorrow, a crucial part of Airbus' R&T portfolio, will help us assess the industrial feasibility of future wing production. High-performing wing technology is one of several solutions - alongside sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen - we can implement to contribute to aviation's decarbonisation ambition. Wing of Tomorrow is also an example of how large-scale industry collaboration will be critical to achieving our sector's agenda for a more sustainable future."

Wing of Tomorrow, part-funded by the UK's Aerospace Technology Institute, is a fully transnational Airbus programme involving global partners and teams across Airbus' European sites, including Bremen in Germany, where the 'Wing Moveables' team is based. The three wing demonstrators will bring together more than 100 new technologies to explore new manufacturing and assembly techniques with the goal of making aviation more sustainable.

Sub-assembly of the complex wing cover took place at Airbus' Filton site, England, having been manufactured at the National Composite Centre in Bristol. The wing cover and a major component from GKN Aerospace - the Fixed Trailing Edge - were delivered to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Wales, facility on Airbus' wing-production plant in Broughton, Flintshire, for assembly to begin.

Meanwhile, Airbus has launched an extra-performing wing demonstrator project focused on accelerating and validating technologies that will improve and optimise wing aerodynamics and performance for any future aircraft. This scaled demonstrator will integrate and fly breakthrough wing technologies on a Cessna Citation VII business jet platform in representative flight conditions. The applications of the extra-performing wing would be compatible with any propulsion solution and aircraft configuration and would reduce CO2 emissions, contributing greatly to Airbus' decarbonisation roadmap.

"Airbus' extra-performing wing demonstrator is another example of Airbus' novel technology-oriented solutions to decarbonise the aviation sector," says Klauke. "Airbus is continuously investigating parallel and complementary solutions such as infrastructure, flight operations and aircraft structure. With this demonstrator, we will make significant strides in active control technology through research and applied testing of various technologies inspired by biomimicry. "

Similar to how an eagle soars, adapting the shape, span and surface of its wings and feathers, this demonstrator allows for increased flight efficiency. Various technology bricks will be investigated to enable the active control of the wing, including: gust sensors, pop-up spoilers or plates that are rapidly deflected perpendicular to airflow, multifunctional trailing edges that dynamically change wing surface in flight and a semi-aeroelastic hinge.

The demonstrator is hosted within Airbus UpNext, a wholly-owned Airbus subsidiary created to give future technologies a development fast-track by building demonstrators at speed and scale, in order to evaluate, mature and validate potential new products and services that encompass radical technological breakthroughs.

Contact details from our directory:
Airbus UK Wings
ATI Aerospace Technology Institute Research/Consulting Services, Technical/Eng/Scientific Studies
Airbus Deutschland GmbH Empennages, Final Assembly, Fuselage Sections, Wing Flaps, Wing Spars, Wings
NCC National Composites Centre Composite Design Consultants, Composite Manufacturing Services, Composite Testing Services, Research/Consulting Services, Trade Organisations
GKN Aerospace - Filton Additive Manufacturing, Aircraft Structural Components, Fuselage Sections, Wing Flaps, Wing Spars, Wings
Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre Casting, Composite Manufacturing Services, Research/Consulting Services, Training
Airbus UpNext Airframer
Related directory sectors:
Airframe Assemblies