European aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus unveiled its blended wing body scale model demonstrator at the Singapore Air Show.
Spanning 2 metres in length and with a width of just over 3 metres, the MAVERIC (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls) prototype provides a glimpse into the capabilities of commercial blended wing designs.
In a statement released on 11 February, Airbus said the design could potentially reduce fuel burn consumption by up to 20% when compared to current single-aisle designs.
MAVERIC was launched by Airbus in 2017 and first flew in June last year. The work, which was conducted away from public view, aims to test the benefits of the blended wing configuration, compared with the traditional fuselage and wing design.
Compared with a traditional aircraft, the Blended Wing Body reduces the surface area integration with the air, thus reducing drag and improving fuel burn. Furthermore, the design has the potential to allow for the integration of propulsion systems into the aircraft, further reducing drag.
Additionally, MAVERIC’s wide and spacious cabin promises to revolutionise the passenger experience; with artist’s renditions showing a bright and airy interior sporting high ceilings, central pillars and decorative panelling.
With MAVERIC testing set to continue until mid-year, Airbus says it will “accelerate traditional research and development cycles,” by leveraging its core strengths in engineering and manufacturing. It aims to achieve this by collaborating with “an extended innovation ecosystem.” In short – the manufacturer will speed up research through a programme of collaboration while focussing on its own internal strengths.
“Airbus is leveraging emerging technologies to pioneer the future of flight. By testing disruptive aircraft configurations, Airbus is able to evaluate their potential as viable future products,” comments Jean-Brice Dumont, EVP Engineering Airbus.
“Although there is no specific time line for entry-into-service, this technological demonstrator could be instrumental in bringing about change in commercial aircraft architectures for an environmentally sustainable future for the aviation industry.”
Airbus’ MAVERIC is not the first time Blended Wing designs have been touted for commercial aviation use.
Last year, KLM joined forces with the Dutch University TU Delft in a mission to develop a more sustainable aviation future.
The result was the design of an aircraft dubbed the ‘Flying V’. Based on a blended wing concept, the Flying V was created to easily integrate into the existing aviation landscape – with dimensions that allow it to be handled by current airport infrastructure.
Having a proposed passenger capacity of 314 travellers, the design’s aerodynamic shape – coupled with the use of fuel-efficient turbofan engines – promises to use 20% less fuel than the most advanced airliners currently in the sky.
“In recent years, KLM has developed as a pioneer in sustainability within the airline industry. The development of aviation has given the world a great deal, offering us an opportunity to connect people. This privilege is paired with a huge responsibility for our planet,” said KLM President & CEO Pieter Elbers in June 2019.
“KLM takes this very seriously and has therefore been investing in sustainability at different levels for many years, enabling it to develop a broad spectrum of sustainability initiatives.”
“We are proud of our progressive cooperative relationship with TU Delft, which ties in well with KLM’s strategy and serves as an important milestone for us on the road to scaling-up sustainable aviation.”
Additionally, in 2006 Boeing’s Phantom Works division developed a blended wing demonstration vehicle. Dubbed the X-48B, the remotely controlled aircraft flew in July 2007 in a project that was completed in cooperation with NASA.
While primarily developed to test characteristics for Air Force purposes, the aircraft appears visually similar to commercial blended wing concepts; and promised a suite of structural and aeronautical advantages.
The aircraft undertook 30 flights during its test run, which concluded in 2013.
At the aircraft’s retirement, Bob Liebeck, Boeing Senior Technical Fellow praised the aircraft, saying “we have shown that a BWB (blended wing body) aircraft, which offers the tremendous promise of significantly greater fuel efficiency and reduced noise, can be controlled as effectively as a conventional tube-and-wing aircraft during takeoffs, landings and other low-speed segments of the flight regime.”