Airbus unveils technology demonstrator ‘blended wing body’ aircraft

On Tuesday, Airbus SE unveiled its latest concept “blended wing body” design aircraft that could slash carbon emission by as much as 20%.

Since 2019, Airbus has been carrying out flight tests of the 10.5 feet (3.2-metre-wide) technology demonstrator, code-named Maveric, at a secret location in central France.

The “blended wing body” design has been around since the 1940s and led to the design of the U.S. B-2 bomber, as well as the X-48 research project between Boeing and NASA a decade ago.

While these aircraft produce less drag and are more efficient flying machines, they are more complex to control. Airplane makers are revisiting such designs following the passenger jet industry tries committing to more environmentally friendly aircraft.

“We believe it is high time now to push this technology further and study what it brings to us,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice-president of engineering at Airbus. “We need these disruptive technologies to meet our environmental challenge. It is the next generation of aircraft; we are studying an option.”

He went on to add, it is still too early to state whether such designs could contribute to the next generation of medium-haul planes, expected in the 2030s.

In comparison to previous generation of tests, aerospace design and technological advances has led to improvements in materials that have made the aircraft significantly lighter; the increase in computing power has also led to improved flight controls, said Dumont.

Airbus is currently studying how the cabin would work and how such aircraft could be integrated into airports. A question that remains unresolved is whether such planes would have windows or use video screens to give passengers a sense of their surroundings.

Another question that remains unanswered is how to handle sensations of movement.

With this design, passengers would be sitting further out from the center of the aircraft, compared to the classic ‘tube and wings’ model, thus they would move further when the aircraft turns.

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