Airbus, the European aerospace giant that is one of the UK’s largest manufacturers through its Airbus UK subsidiary has unveiled a new aircraft concept design based on ‘biomimicry’ of eagles. The electric hybrid concept plane will, if it does eventually enter commercial production, be an 80-passenger regional aircraft.
Designed by mainly British engineers and shown off at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford over the weekend the aircraft’s design is certainly unique. Its split tale is designed for better control and drag reduction and ‘blended wings’ include the fuselage-mirrors and an aerodynamic arch on the wing root. A blended wing-to-fuselage joint also mirrors an eagle or falcon.
The innovative concept model has been dubbed the ‘Bird of Prey’ and intentionally broke away from a traditional plane design. Firstly, as explained by Martin Aston, part of Airbus’s senior management:
“Bird of Prey is designed to be an inspiration to young people and create a “wow” factor that will help them consider an exciting career in the UK’s crucially-important aerospace sector”.
Secondly, the latest technology in the world of aeronautics is prioritising fuel efficiency in bid to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of flight. The Bird of Prey design will, say Airbus, cut fuel consumption by up to 50%. It will also significantly reduce noise pollution levels around airports – another important consideration for a future in which it is expected that we will fly even more than today.
Mr Martin commented:
“One of the priorities for the entire industry is how to make aviation more sustainable making flying cleaner, greener and quieter than ever before. We know from our work on the A350 XWB passenger jet that through biomimicry, nature has some of the best lessons we can learn about design.”
The UK trade secretary Liam Fox was equally enthusiastic over the Bird of Prey design, stating:
“an exciting glimpse into the future of the sector — ground-breaking, fuel-efficient and immensely innovative — demonstrating the strength and creativity of British engineering”.
Major aerospace companies as well as a host of well-funded start-ups are investing heavily in developing the next generation of aircraft design and technology with a particular emphasis on short haul craft. Flying taxis, the designs of many of which are built on technology that is more like that of drones than aeroplanes, designed for short hops such as from an airport to city centre, are expected to start appearing in our skies within a few short years. The Paris Olympics in 2024 has been targeted for a commercial flying taxi service between the Orly and Charles du Gaul airports and the city.
Smaller aircraft like the Bird of Prey concept design for intercity travel and between neighbouring countries are also a priority. New hybrid electric technology for fuel efficiency, less noise and smaller spaces required for landing and take-off are key to the next era of aviation.