Airbus has looked to formation flying in the natural world to devise fello’fly, a concept that could potentially increase the environmental performance of commercial aircraft.
The company said its biomimetic fello’fly project aims to demonstrate the technical, operational and commercial viability of two aircraft flying together for long-haul flights.
In a statement, Airbus said that fello’fly would see a follower aircraft retrieve the energy lost by the wake of a leader aircraft, by flying in the smooth updraft of air it creates. This would provide lift to the follower aircraft allowing it to decrease engine thrust and reduce fuel consumption in the range of 5-10 per cent per trip.
The technical solution that Airbus is working on involves pilot assistance functions necessary to ensure the aircraft they are flying remains safely positioned in the updraft of air of the aircraft they are following, maintaining the same distance, at a steady altitude.
Airbus is working in collaboration with airlines and Air Traffic Control (ATC) providers to identify the operational needs and suitable solutions for planning and executing fello’fly operations.
Airbus is due to commence flight tests with two of its A350 aircraft in 2020 and is targeting a controlled Entry-Into-Service (EIS) before the middle of the next decade.
In 2016 the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) restated two ‘global aspirational goals’ for the international aviation sector of 2% annual fuel efficiency improvements through 2050 and carbon neutral growth from 2020 onwards.