Europe plans to develop an advanced "morphing" wing concept using plasma aerodynamics within five years as one of the principal centrepieces of its €1.6 billion ($2.15 billion) Clean Sky joint technology initiative (JTI).

The smart wing will use advanced materials and structures to sense changes in air speed and pressure, and then alter the shape of the wing to suit the new conditions.

The adaptive wing project will cost €350 million and is one of six technology areas that together will help next-generation aircraft achieve a targeted reduction of up to 40% in carbon dioxide emissions, a 40% reduction in nitrogen oxides and a 20dB reduction in noise levels around airports.

The Clean Sky project areas include Systems for Green Operation, Green Engines, Green Rotorcraft, Eco-design, Smart Wing Aircraft and Regional Air Transport (link), and each one will feature a technology demonstrator that aims to bring innovative technologies to a maturity level where they can be applied to next-generation aircraft.

Dominique Ollinger, Airbus's head of European Union affairs and JTI Task Force chairman, says: "We are looking at developing a wing that acts like a bird, an intelligent wing, a wing that adapts some part of its shape depending on conditions with in-built integrated sensors and new materials.

"Under previous research through the EC sixth framework the smart wing concept was only developed in the laboratory or integration on a very small level. We really want to see if it actually works in practice and this will achieve that.

"A lot of work will go into finding the best technology demonstrator - determine which is the best flying object - but at this early stage we are considering either a dedicated aircraft that could be a A320 with this new wing technology attached or an unmanned aerial vehicle."

Ollinger says: "We want to try new configurations on this aircraft to provide some additional increase of performance. That could mean positioning the engine off the wing," adding that the first flight will be in around five years. "This is a multidisciplinary project and will integrate many other advanced technological concepts such as plasma aerodynamics."

Speaking at the show, EC research commissioner Janez Potocnik said: "The European Union is not just talking about tackling climate change. It is also making the necessary investment in technological development."

Clean Sky will receive an EU contribution of up to €800 million from the EU's seven-year seventh research framework programme. This will be matched by funds from industry, leading to a total budget of up to €1.6 billion. Clean Sky will include all major aeronautical players in Europe with initial membership close to 100 organisations active in aeronautical R&D.

Source: Flight International