AlbatrossONE is a small-scale, remote-controlled aircraft demonstrator that puts semi-aeroelastic hinged wing-tips to the test. These freely flapping wing-tips—capable of reacting and flexing to wind gusts—have the potential to alleviate wing loads and avoid tip stall for improved aircraft performance.
Taking inspiration from the albatross
AlbatrossONE takes inspiration from the flying technique of the albatross, a majestic seabird that can “lock” its wings at the shoulder to fly long distances with little fatigue. When faced with wind gusts, the albatross can “unlock” its shoulder to better navigate wind speeds. Semi-aeroelastic hinged wing-tips behave in an analogous way.
AlbatrossONE is the first aircraft demonstrator to trial in-flight, freely flapping wing-tips. By reacting and flexing to wind gusts, semi-aeroelastic hinged wing-tips could:
- combat the effects of turbulence,
- alleviate wing loads,
- increase roll rate compared to fixed-wing tips,
- avoid tip stall during landing,
- reduce drag, thereby leading to significant reductions in fuel burn and CO2 emissions.
AlbatrossONE achieves proof-of-concept on a small scale
An innovative approach to proof of concept
To date, the AlbatrossONE demonstrator has successfully completed a variety of innovative ground-based tests. These include the following:
- Swing testing to confirm the aircraft’s mass properties
- Van testing to investigate wing aerodynamics and to test the folding wing-tip release and recovery mechanism
- Tether testing to investigate handling qualities
The flight test campaign achieved the following:
- A “gate-to-gate” demonstration, which proved freely flapping wing-tips can alleviate wing loads
- Wing flapping before lift-off to improve roll control and navigate a high load during flight
Further tests are required to mature the technology at a larger scale.