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ARTICLE: Aircraft Design Inspired by Nature and Enabled by Tech



Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of Nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. Airbus, as reported by the Smithsonian magazine, has followed that theory to “mimic” the structure of a bird and the result is a potential new airplane of 2050 shown above. The date for successful aircraft design goes back to 1490 when Leonardo DaVinci developed plans for a man-carrying ornithopter with flapping wings and in 1799 when Sir George Cayley defined the forces of lift and drag and presented the first scientific design for a fixed-wing aircraft. So, this vision of an aircraft structure only 38 years from now may not be unrealistic as the author so ably describes the bird-to-plane transformation–

“The most noticeable aspect of this approach is in the fuselage, which, instead of being wrapped in opaque steel, is composed of a web-like network of structural material that looks a bit like a skeleton. In fact, that’s exactly what it should remind you of, because it’s inspired by the bone structure of birds.”

To transform this vision into reality, Airbus recognizes that incredibly innovative manufacturing methods will have to be developed and the company’s engineers will need to stretch their imaginations in those dimensions, too. The original text describes how this is all possible, as incredible as it may seem.

The year 2050 is not that far away. This article, and the underlying Airbus work, point to a professional aviation knowledge base that will have to be developed to support these future airplanes — new sciences will have to be created, new engineering established and the manufacturing systems advanced. Over 100 years ago the first controlled, sustained, powered flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina took place proving that man could fly. The Airbus research lays out a vision that takes the recreation of the bird’s flight one iteration further into structural copying.

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