Key Points:

  • Airbus UpNext's modified Cessna Citation VII has embarked on its initial test flight to evaluate a new wing design intended to enhance aircraft performance.

  • The aircraft, poised to become an uncrewed flying testbed, is currently trialing antennas and probes for its remote-control system.

  • Airbus's engineers aim to achieve a 5-10% improvement in fuel consumption with the wing's advanced design features.

Maiden Flight for Airbus's Wing Innovation Program

Airbus's dedicated innovation division, Airbus UpNext, has proudly announced the inaugural flight of a modified Cessna Citation VII, marking a key milestone in its Extra Performance Wing demonstration program. Departing from Toulouse airport on November 6, this initial test flight signals the commencement of a series of evaluations that will lead to the aircraft's eventual conversion into an uncrewed testbed.

Test Campaign Takes Off with Advanced Control Systems

In the program's first phase, the aircraft has been outfitted with antennas and probes at Toulouse, integral to the remote-control system that will guide the aircraft in future flights. Currently, onboard pilots are in the process of appraising the effectiveness of these systems.

The subsequent phase of the test campaign will see the implementation of the novel wing design. This phase will include the installation of a lidar system, featuring dual lasers in the cockpit, engineered to predict and respond to turbulence fractions of a second in advance by adjusting control surfaces.

Innovations Aim to Reduce Drag and Boost Efficiency

Central to this wing's innovative features is a semi-aeroelastic hinge located at the base of the wingtip extension. Activated during intense turbulence, this hinge allows the wingtip to move independently, mitigating stress on the wing structure and obviating the need for additional structural reinforcement, thus lightening the wing compared to traditional designs.

Additionally, the wing will incorporate three flaps equipped with rapid-response multifunctional trailing edges, or tabs, enabling the wing to dynamically adapt its shape to various flight conditions. This adaptability mirrors the natural efficiency found in the wing mechanics of birds.

Through these advancements, Airbus UpNext engineers are targeting a significant reduction in drag and an increase in the wing's adaptive efficiency, with the goal of improving fuel consumption by 5-10%. Further details on the ongoing test campaign are anticipated to be disclosed on November 8.