Aircraft gets lift from tuna fins

A concept aircraft design inspired by the aerodynamics and cornering ability of a tuna fish is being developed by a team of Swiss engineers.

The team, which has been collaborating with researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, claims that its design will be easy to manufacture with lower operating costs than conventional aircraft.

Dubbed SmartFish, the design makes use of a blended wing body that is said to provide dramatic benefits by improving lift and reducing drag.

Team leader, mechanical engineer Koni Schafroth, claims that preliminary wind tunnel tests and scale model flight data suggest that the aircraft will be faster and more efficient than conventional aircraft of comparable size and propulsion system.

The SmartFish team has evaluated several designs using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software. By simulating the flight of the vehicle at different speeds and angles of attack the software was used to define the optimum shape of the aircraft.

Test flights with several radio-controlled models, powered by an electric impeller have shown the good flight characteristics and performance of SmartFish.

In the next phase of the project, a two-seater Proof of Concept model will be constructed and flown.