Last year, engineers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands came up with an interesting concept for aircraft, including a novel V-shaped design that promises significant efficiency over conventional aircraft. The project has now gone from a smooth rendering of a futuristic aircraft to a scale model capable of flying. Engineers at the school recently showed off the model for the first time.
In fully implemented form, the Flying V will integrate the cabin, cargo hold and fuel tank into its V-shaped wing structure, with a wingspan comparable to that of the Airbus A350. This will allow Flying V to take off and land using the existing airport infrastructure, with enough space on board to accommodate the same number of cargo and human passengers, with 314 seats standard.
However, flying V’s performance advantage lies in the aerodynamic improvements brought about by its overall smaller body. Smaller quality means less resistance, which means less fuel is needed to transport flying V to its destination. According to the team, flying V’s reduced weight and unique form factor can reduce fuel consumption by 20% less than the current state-of-the-art commercial aircraft, the Airbus A350-900.
Before that, however, researchers still have a lot of work to do. As part of its quest for this vision, the team has been working with KLM, the Dutch airline that joined the project last year, to develop a scale model. With a wingspan of 3.06 meters (10 feet), a length of 2.76 meters (9.05 feet) and a weight of 22.5 kilograms (50 pounds), it is only a small fraction of the 55-meter-long (180-foot) concept aircraft, but allows the team to conduct some important and useful tests on a small and safe scale.
The model is equipped with a control system for drones and a 6 kg (13 lb) lithium polymer battery. It first carried out extensive wind tunnels and ground tests in the Netherlands and was then shipped to Germany for its first flight.
In July, an Airbus team conducted the test at an air base, with the main goal of achieving several key goals. The team’s goal is to show that the scale model can take off and perform a series of test moves until the battery is almost empty and then land safely. Under the control of drone pilot Nando van Arnhem, the model’s first flight was considered a success.
The team has now collected a batch of flight data that can be used for analysis and as a basis for new aerodynamic models. The model can then be used to determine what changes need to be made to the model aircraft to ensure smoother flights in the future. For example, through the test flight, the team found signs of wiggle in the current design, making it difficult for the aircraft to maintain wing levels and land smoothly. They now want to use the data to correct this behavior.
The team is also working to fine-tune the concept, and the next step involves the exploration of sustainable propulsion, including the possibility of replacing kerosene with liquid hydrogen to power it.