The wind-tunnel testing of Airbus’ nature-inspired wing demonstrator is complete

Airbus has completed wind tunnel testing of its eXtra Performance Wing demonstrator as part of its ongoing efforts to rapidly test and accelerate advanced innovative technologies that will decarbonize the aviation industry. The demonstrator model was put through its paces at the Filton wind tunnel near Bristol, England.

The eXtra Performance Wing project, which debuted in September, draws inspiration from nature to improve wing aerodynamics and performance. To reduce CO2 emissions, it is designed to be compatible with any future aircraft configuration and propulsion system.

Airbus is testing wing technologies based on the behavior of bird flight with wings to create more efficient aircraft with lower carbon footprints. Initially, the technology was introduced on a smaller scale through another Airbus project, AlbatrossONE, which tested semi-aeroelastic hinged wings that unlocked during flight when experiencing wind gusts or turbulence, similar to the seabird. The eXtra Performance Wing will now investigate new technologies such as gust sensors, pop-up spoilers, and multifunctional trailing edges to enable active wing control.

The eXtra Performance Wing demonstrator model was tested in the Airbus wind tunnel
Credit: Airbus

“The scaled demonstrator will integrate and fly breakthrough wing technologies using a remote-controlled Cessna Citation VII business jet platform in representative flight conditions. The partly 3D-printed wind-tunnel model – expertly built by the aerodynamics team at Airbus’ low-speed, wind-tunnel facility in Bristol – is a scaled-down version of the Cessna jet, incorporating the lightweight, long-span design of the eXtra Performance Wing that will provide the emissions benefits we are striving for.”

Oliver Family, Head of eXtra Performance Wing UK

The Airbus low-speed wind tunnel at Filton simulates aircraft take-off and landing wind speeds, but it is also used by outside organizations to test F1 cars, ship radar systems, Urban Air Mobility vehicles, and more conventional aircraft.

“Airbus’ state-of-the-art low-speed wind tunnel is a fantastic way to validate our concepts before flight tests,” added Oliver Family. “Our computational aerodynamic analysis capability is world-class, and the wind tunnel provides another valuable way to measure the performance and capabilities of the aircraft before flight testing. The technologies we have tested in the Filton wind tunnel – many inspired by biomimicry – will now be rapidly integrated for flight testing.”


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