Last year we got wind of an interesting aviation concept concocted by engineers at TU Delft, which consisted of a new V-shaped design that promises significant efficiency gains over conventional aircraft. The project has now gone from sleek renderings of a futuristic aircraft to a scale-capable, flight-capable model, which was recently shown in action for the very first time.
In its fully realized form, the Flying V aircraft would feature a cabin, cargo hold, and fuel tanks integrated into its V-shaped wing structure, which would have a wingspan equal to that of an Airbus A350. This would allow the Flying V to take off and land using the existing airport infrastructure, with enough space on board for the same amount of cargo and human passengers, with 314 seats in the standard configuration.
Where the Flying V would offer some performance benefits is through improved aerodynamics due to its overall smaller airframe. Less mass means less drag, which means less fuel is needed to transport the Flying V to its destination. According to the team, the Flying V’s reduced weight and unique shape could allow it to use 20% less fuel than an Airbus A350-900, the most advanced commercial aircraft in action today.
However, there is a lot of research and development to be done before this date. As part of their pursuit of this vision, the team developed a scale model with Dutch airline KLM, which joined the project last year. With a wingspan of 3.06m (10ft), a length of 2.76m (9.05ft) and a weight of 22.5kg (50lb), it is only a fraction of the size 55 meters long (180 ft), but allows the team to perform important and useful tests on a small scale and in complete safety.
The model is equipped with a drone control system and 6 kg (13 lb) of lithium polymer batteries. It was first subjected to a series of wind tunnel and ground tests in the Netherlands before being shipped to Germany for its maiden flight.
This was done at an air base in July with a team from Airbus, with a few key goals in mind. The team focused on showing that the scale model could take off, perform a series of test maneuvers until the batteries were nearly depleted, and then land safely. With drone pilot Nando van Arnhem at the controls, the model’s maiden flight was considered a success.
The team now has a collection of flight data to analyze and use as the basis for a new aerodynamic model. This model can then be used to determine what modifications to make to the aircraft model to ensure smoother flights in the future. For example, during the test flight, the team discovered signs of oscillation in the current design, with the aircraft struggling to keep its wings level and land smoothly. They now hope to use the data to correct this behavior.
From there, the team is also working to refine the concept, with the next steps involving the exploration of sustainable propulsion, including the possibility of fueling it with liquid hydrogen instead of kerosene.
You can see the maiden flight of the scale model in the video below.
Flying-V – Scale model of inaugural flight
Source: TU Delft