Airbus tests prototype aircraft with movable wingtips

Airbus engineers have developed a large-scale model of an aircraft with partially movable wings - AlbatrossOne, the prototype of which is the wings of the albatross. The aerospace giant used a clue from nature to create the concept of a "semi-automatic hinge" to reduce drag and overall wing weight to overcome the effects of turbulence and wind gusts.

AlbatrossOne is a drone that has already completed several test flights, thus confirming the effectiveness of the concept. It should be noted that it is not new. Attempts to create aircraft with wings like birds have been undertaken since the dawn of aviation, and folding wings are widely used in deck aviation to increase the capacity of hangars below the deck of aircraft carriers.

Thanks to the unique wing design, albatrosses can fly thousands of kilometers without flapping. At the same time, the bird does not get tired, because it can fix the wings in one position and unlock them when it encounters a gust of wind or to perform a maneuver. The experimental semi-automatic wingtip hinge operates on the same principle.

AlbatrossOne is a scaled-down version of the Airbus A31 made of carbon composites and fiberglass. It took 20 months to create it. According to Airbus engineer Tom Wilson, the free-moving section covers a third of the wing's length and is capable of autonomously responding to turbulence and load reduction. This will reduce the weight of the airframe and the load on the wings at their junctions with the fuselage.

The first stage of testing ended in February 2019. At the next stage, the processes of unlocking the wings in flight will be studied.