Primary funding opportunities: High aspect ratio wings and dry wings

In the first of our blogs exploring the technologies identified as primary funding opportunities earlier this month, Stuart Gates, Deputy Head of Technology – Whole Aircraft discusses the advancements required in HAR wings and dry wings.

Maximising aerodynamic performance, efficiency, and reducing weight are key to the success of any large commercial aircraft as these factors reduce in-flight energy usage and improve affordability for operators. Further advances in aerodynamics will underpin the emissions reduction potential of both ultra-efficient aircraft powered by SAF and zero-carbon aircraft powered by hydrogen or electrical propulsion.

Wings feature heavily throughout our roadmaps in Destination Zero. The UK is an established leader in wings, an area poised for dramatic changes with associated competitive threat, so we must capitalise on our strengths in aerodynamics, aerostructures and manufacturing to ensure our continued technology leadership in the delivery of energy efficient wings for emissions reduction.

High aspect ratio wings

Increased wing span can be exploited to change the overall distribution of lift, reducing drag and offering the potential for significant aircraft fuel burn savings.

The ATI technology strategy Destination Zero sets out the technology priorities for folding wing tips with highly integrated systems and for loads alleviation. This technology is important to ensure the desired aerodynamic benefit can be achieved for an acceptable structural weight and as part of an integrated wing design.

To achieve this, component manufacturing and assembly technologies are required that enable the production of composite high-aspect ratio wings that can achieve both the target costs and build rates anticipated for the next generation of aircraft.

Underpinning this is the development of manufacturing processes and materials that optimise both performance (i.e. weight) and manufacturing efficiency through improved material utilisation, reduced energy consumption and production cost.

Dry wings

The removal of the fuel tanks from the wings for zero-carbon aircraft, creating what are known as dry wings, opens new wing design challenges and opportunities. Work is required to develop new integrated aerodynamic and structural configurations which will achieve the aircraft energy efficiency levels needed to enable the commercial introduction of zero-carbon platforms.

The configurations may incorporate radical aerodynamic planforms, new systems and novel structural constructions which maximise the performance while managing the wing bending moment in the absence of wing tank and kerosene fuel weight.

The potential alternative novel architectures may not need to be sealed, electrically inerted compartments and there may be significant challenges in material compatibility and integration of hydrogen and/or electrical systems for designs where engines are installed on the wing.

Primary Funding Opportunities

The ATI Programme remains an open competition and the ATI continues to encourage ideas and engagement from across the whole aerospace spectrum aligned to the technology strategy, Destination Zero. Click here to find out more about the primary funding opportunities in the ATI Programme. Look out for our next blog exploring the technologies identified as key to achieving Net Zero 2050 and securing UK competitiveness which require investment in upcoming funding batches.

Cover image: Artist concept of commercial aircraft families with a Transonic Truss-Braced Wing configuration from the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project. © Copyright: Boeing