Innovative high-lift system cuts aircraft noise and drag
Researchers in Germany have created an alternative to the traditional leading-edge slat that could reduce the aerodynamic drag of future aircraft.
Developed in collaboration with Airbus, EADS Innovation Works and Cassidian Air Systems, the innovative high-lift system reduces drag and noise by morphing into a different shape during landing and take-off.
"The smart droop nose morphs itself during take-off and landing in such a way that no separate slats are necessary," explained Markus Kintscher, a researcher at the German Aerospace Centre's Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems. "The leading edge can be lowered by up to 20° with virtually no loss of lift."
One of the main challenges when developing the system, according to Kintscher, was how to reduce fuel consumption as well as minimise drag. The researchers also faced several materials dilemmas.
"On the one hand, the structure had to be very elastic, to enable it to morph to the required shapes, but on the other it had to be very rigid," Kintscher noted. "Ultimately, the leading edge must bear around one third of the weight of the aircraft during landing."
After extensive testing, the researchers chose a glass-fibre reinforced material to ensure the leading edge of the wing was not too heavy. They positioned individual layers of the material one on top of the other on the curved front edge of the wing in such a way that the skin's structure had a customised rigidity distribution.
The leading edge morphs into the desired shape via integrated actuators and support elements along the wingspan, thus achieving very high stability. The researchers are now looking to further develop the system to meet industrial requirements such as lightning protection, de-icing and the ability to withstand bird strikes.
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