Airbus X-Plane has tested the wingtips that fold in flight. They are inspired by nature, and they also make the production and use of aircraft many times more profitable.
Airbus has developed special AlbatrossONE wings that mimic the aerodynamic qualities of birds. The design is a semi-flexible wingtip that flexes in flight.
In 2019, Airbus demonstrated the concept on a miniature version of one of its aircraft. This week, after two years of silence, the company again used a remote-controlled demonstration aircraft. But this time, Airbus has tested the concept of free-flapping wingtips that are much larger – 75% longer than the previous model.
The semi-flexible wings of the aircraft follow the tips of the albatross’s wings. This bird changes trajectory and flight mechanics based on wind speed, which allows it to cover greater distances with less cost and to cope with turbulence.
Aircraft manufacturers are working to reduce fuel consumption and emissions when operating next generation commercial airliners. One solution is to use longer wings. The elongation of the wing reduces the drag caused by lift. However, increasing the span also increases its weight. Using folding tips can solve the problem. They will optimally reduce the load on the aircraft during wind gusts and aircraft maneuvers.
Semi-elastic hinged wingtips allow the aircraft to “sail” through gusts of wind without unnecessary external stress on the main wing. This means that less material is required to create an airplane. The use of carbon fiber-reinforced polymers can be reduced. This material is necessary for the wing to be strong enough to withstand gusts of wind. The development will reduce the weight of the aircraft, which means it will reduce the amount of fuel and emissions.