In a world dominated by air travel and global concerns around emissions, engineering innovation needs to be at the forefront. Airbus has done just that as they revealed a new aircraft design that could revolutionise the aviation industry.
The European aeroplane manufacturer has been performing ‘secret’ test flights of their latest demonstrator, the MAVERIC (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls), in France since 2019.
They unveiled their 3.2-meter (10.5 ft) concept at the Singapore Airshow highlighting the new environmentally-friendly aviation design that could reduce carbon emissions by 20%.
The MAVERIC looks a lot like a manta ray with wings blending seamlessly into its body for improved aerodynamics. It will reportedly help reduce fuel consumption compared to a traditional aircraft with the same engine.
Fact is, “blended wing body” design has actually been around since the 1940s. It can be seen on America’s B-2 bomber and the X-48 research project between Boeing and NASA. According to Reuters, the MAVERIC is far more complicated to fly but it’s a small price to pay for the better fuel efficiency.
Manufacturers in the aviation sector are seriously looking at such designs to meet the increasing demand to make passenger jets more environmentally friendly. If you consider that emissions from the aviation industry are approximately 2-3%, they would be in the top ten global emitters when compared to entire countries.
Next-Generation Aviation With Airbus
It might be too soon to tell whether such shapes could contribute to the next generation of medium-sized planes which are only expected to take shape in the 2030s. That said, since the previous generation of aviation testing, the aerospace sector has seen vast improvements in materials. These have contributed to lighter aircraft, increased computing power and improving flight controls.
Airbus is in the process of studying how the cabin would work and how the aircraft can integrate into existing airports. There is an interesting question about “whether the aircraft will have windows or use video screens to give passengers a sense of their surroundings”.
“We believe it is high time now to push this technology further and study what it brings to us. We need these disruptive technologies to meet our environmental challenge. It is the next generation of aircraft; we are studying an option.”
– Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice-president of engineering at Airbus
Bringing The Demonstrator To Life
Airbus is working on a scale-model with a surface area of about seven square feet. According to the company, a fully developed aircraft will have a more spacious cabin with more legroom and wider aisles than the traditional single-aisle aeroplanes.
Jean-Brice Dumont said: “Although there is no specific timeline for entry-into-service, this technological demonstrator could be instrumental in bringing about change in commercial aircraft architectures for an environmentally sustainable future for the aviation industry.”
Airbus will continue its flight tests through the middle of 2020 while developing the MAVERIC alongside other more experimental projects. These form part of a research program called, AirbusUpNext where they will investigate aircraft with hybrid-electric propulsion, v-shaped “formation” flight and autonomous taxi take-off and landing.
Recommended: ‘Airbus Introduces Concept Hybrid-Electric Aircraft’
Today, the aviation sector is considering new types of aircraft to help reduce carbon emissions. On a large, commercial airliner scale, it may not happen any time soon but the innovation is there and environmentally-friendly air travel does seem within our grasp.
In light of Airbus’ continued investment in research and development, here are some noteworthy innovations of the past and present:
- Her0 Zero T-shaped jet concept that would operate with zero emissions
- Zunum Aero electric plane from Boeing and Jet-Blue
- Faradair BEHA (Bio-Electric-Hybrid-Aircraft)
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