An Airbus-led European consortium helps define the shape of aircraft to come

An Airbus-led European consortium helps define the shape of aircraft to come

A five-year research programme on new aircraft concepts has made important progress on several promising future technologies.

21 June 2010 Feature story

Over the past 50 years, aircraft designers have achieved significant gains in fuel efficiency and environmental performance.  However, if further improvements are to be made, radically new concepts will be needed – which is where the NACRE (New Aircraft Concepts Research) project comes in.

Since 2005, NACRE, a European Airbus-led consortium of 36 partners from 13 countries, has been looking at ways to produce cleaner, quieter and cheaper aircraft for the future. NACRE shared its key results with the industry at a final event held in Toulouse.

Airbus project leader João Frota said NACRE has been able to make important progress on a number of promising future technologies, as well as forging close research relationships with companies and researchers across Europe.

“Open rotor propulsion systems and the natural laminar flow wing are both highly promising for fuel burn and emissions reduction and we have calculated their benefits alongside tackling any drawbacks,” he said.

NACRE provided these conclusions by applying powerful computational tools and representations to analyse concepts in laboratory conditions – sometimes combined with wind tunnel testing. An important challenge was fine-tuning the prediction tools and looking at overcoming any potential problems posed by the technologies.

“We worked closely with partners on developing and calibrating the prediction tools to ensure we achieved the most detailed data possible on the designs,” Frota added.

Much of the work conducted by NACRE will now move into the Clean Sky project, which is looking to mature and validate the technologies over the next five years. Rolls-Royce too will continue to explore open rotor concepts with Airbus, under the umbrella of its DREAM research initiative.

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