The world’s expectations, nay demands, are that aviation dramatically reduce its CO2 emissions. Thus, an EU sponsored project with AIRBUS and its European allies in testing an innovative wind design which might result in a 5% reduction in CO2. The project will cost about €180 million ($216 million), and Airbus has invested €90 million ($108 million).
Blade is an acronym for Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe. The innovative design is expected to use Natural Laminar Flow (NLF) wing technology to reduce wing friction by as much as 50%. BLADE combines a transonic laminar wing profile with a true internal primary structure.
Two separate test beds are being used during these flights. One wing features integral composite leading edge and upper cover, which with fewer fastener connections and penetrations into the Laminar Upper Cover. The other Blade wing utilizes a separated composite leading edge and upper cover.
The transonic wing tests will rely on new Flight Test Instruments. In order to measure the tolerances and imperfections which can be present and still sustain laminarity, the team installed hundreds of measurement points to gauge the waviness of the surface.
From that data, the engineers will be able to assess such phenomena’s influence on the laminarity. The test bed plane, the A340, named Flight Lab, used infrared cameras inside the pod to measure wing temperature and the acoustic generator that measures the influence of acoustics on so-called laminarity. Finally, an innovative reflectometry system measures overall deformation in real-time during flight, based on the sunlight’s reflection on the new wing panels.
A true laminar-flow wing applies the principle of aerodynamic organized flow and reduces friction and drag. The principle has been known for decades but could not be applied effectively on commercial aircraft for technical reasons, although it is hoped that Flight Lab will be able to demonstrate the feasibilit
y of this technology. The potential drag reduction could reach 8 percent on short-range aircraft when compared to a standard turbulent (non-laminar-flow) wing, but this would occur at an optimum speed of Mach 0.75, a little less than the current typical cruise speed of Mach 0.78.
Great promise will be assayed during the test flights and it will be interesting to see if Blade will deliver.
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