Airbus made the headlines just over a year ago when it revealed a rather striking design for future aircraft. Its concept featured an eye-catching ‘blended wing’ fuselage, in which features such as the passenger cabin are integrated into a single, large ‘flying wing.’ But how has it developed the idea since then, and what are its next steps?
Airbus named the concept ‘MAVERIC.’ Image: Airbus
An eye-catching launch
Airbus first revealed this striking design in February 2020, at the Singapore Air Show, under the name ‘MAVERIC.’ This stands for Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls. Airbus didn’t just unveil the concept, but also a scale-model demonstrator aircraft, which it had first flown the previous year.
The demonstrator plane measured just two meters long, and 3.2 meters wide. Overall, its overall wing surface area was just 2.25 square meters. Despite this, Airbus was confident that, if it can suitably scale up such technology, this innovative fuselage design may yet prove to be a game-changing, industry-disrupting concept. It added that the design:
“… has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20% compared to current single-aisle aircraft. The ‘blended wing body’ configuration also opens up new possibilities for propulsion systems type and integration, as well as a versatile cabin for a totally new on-board passenger experience.”
Switch to hydrogen power
When airlines and manufacturers consider the future, environmental factors often play a significant role in decision-making. As such, the 20% emissions reduction promised by Airbus’s blended wing design surely won it many admirers. However, later in the year, it revealed a new take on the design with an even better reduction.
Coinciding with Zero Emissions Day 2020, September 21st saw Airbus unveil a portfolio of three proposed hydrogen-powered aircraft. Known as the ZEROe range, these emission-free designs would offer a 100% reduction, and they included a blended wing concept. This had the highest capacity of the three proposed aircraft, seating around 200 passengers.
Airbus stated that this design would have a similar range to its turbofan-powered ZEROe concept – approximately 3,700 km (2,000 NM). In terms of how operators would use the space within the “exceptionally wide” blended fuselage, it added that the design “opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution, and for cabin layout.”
So, what will the next steps be for Airbus on its blended wing adventure? In terms of its ZEROe range as a whole, it is strongly committed to this concept, and is one of many companies working towards a more sustainable future for aviation. However, could the unorthodox nature of the blended wing design hinder its introduction compared to the ZEROe range’s other, more conventionally-shaped aircraft?
This may be the case, but, then again, is it really that new? Flying wing designs are already a proven entity in military circles, thanks to designs such as the Northrop Grumman B-2 bomber. As such, with a demonstrator model already in action, Airbus may only need to find a way of scaling this technology up for it to be a success. Blended fuselage aircraft certainly have the potential to markedly alter sustainable aviation as we know it.
What do you make of Airbus’s blended wing fuselage concept? Do you believe such designs will become the norm in the future of commercial aviation? Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comments.
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