Airbus reveals a falcon-inspired Bird of Prey concept plane

The hybrid plane would have individually controlled 'feathers' on the wingtips

We've seen the Flying-V, the KLM concept jet that seems set to shape the future of air travel. Now we have the Bird of Prey, an Airbus-designed plane, which was unveiled on July 19. The concept aircraft has splayed wingtips and a fanned tail inspired by the feathers of an eagle or falcon. The aerospace giant says it is experimenting with “biomimicry” technology that could eventually lead to quieter landings and less pollution.

The European planemaker's UK subsidiary sought to capture the imagination of future engineers by showing off a model of the raptor-like airliner at a military air show in England.

The propeller-driven aircraft would have individually controlled "feathers" on the wingtips to provide what Airbus calls "active flight control" used by an eagle or a falcon.

Also evident is the absence of a traditional vertical tail, relying instead on a split, wedge-shaped tail to reduce drag.

An infographic explaining the Airbus Bird of Prey. Twitter / Airbus 
An infographic explaining the Airbus Bird of Prey. Twitter / Airbus

The regional aircraft would carry as many as 80 passengers up to 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) and burn 30% to 50% less fuel than today's equivalent planes, Airbus said.

"One of the priorities for the entire industry is how to make aviation more sustainable – making flying cleaner, greener and quieter than ever before," Airbus' Senior Manager, Martin Aston, said in a statement. "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."

Inaugurating the display to curious military chiefs and visitors to the Royal International Air Tattoo, Britain's Trade Secretary Liam Fox said it highlighted Britain's technical capability and its attractiveness as a place to invest.

Airbus said its concept plane would have a geodesic or curved fuselage in a throwback to the contours of the Wellington bomber designed by British aircraft designer Barnes Wallis.That aircraft was built in Broughton in Wales from the 1930s to keep it beyond the range of German bombers.

Airbus now uses the same site to produce wings for over 800 jetliners a year. But it has warned the plant faces competition from European nations such as Germany, or others such as Korea, for future generations following Britain's decision to leave the European Union. Brexit supporters are sceptical Airbus would take such a step given Britain's experience with wingmaking.

Updated: July 20, 2019 05:18 PM


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