FACC debuts active morphing winglet technology

The winglets are designed to adapt automatically to changing flight conditions, switching from vertical to horizontal position, offering potential fuel savings of 2.5% and noise reduction of 2 db.

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Aerospace composites specialist FACC (Ried im Innkreis, Austria) has developed its latest development in the winglet sector, a new technology it calls Active Morphing Winglets.

This new, actively controlled winglet from FACC adapts automatically to respective flight conditions, thereby reducing fuel consumption even further and increasing flight safety. The innovation features a control flap that adjusts itself in real time to suit the current conditions. FACC says this also ensures optimal aerodynamics for the fuel-intensive take-off and landing procedures, and helps reduce noise and pollution emissions.

In cruising flight, the aircraft is further stabilized in crosswinds and gusts. A freely warping (morphing) gap covering covers the gap produced when the control flap emerges and ensures aerodynamically optimized geometries in every setting. This variability of the wing geometry compensates for the additional load caused by winglets in the central and outer wing structure, making structural reinforcement of the wing unnecessary when winglets are added. Control unit, sensors, and actuators are accommodated in the smallest of spaces. FACC says integration of the gap covering in an airworthy design and implementation of a maximum oscillation rate of 60H without stalling represent a milestone in aeronautical design.

The benefits of this innovation also include a substantial reduction in various environmental effects. The new generation of Active Morphing Winglets saves around 2.5% more fuel than the rigid solutions. Noise emissions are reduced by about 2 decibels, thereby ensuring lower noise levels in the vicinity of airports. The shorter, active winglets provide an additional advantage over conventional, horizontal wing extensions in terms of maneuverability at the airport. Winglets extend the wing surface vertically, thereby saving space, increasing efficiency and ultimately optimizing airport utilization. The Active Morphing Winglet prototype has already been subjected to intensive wind-tunnel tests. These confirmed the improved performance of the new winglets in realistic flight conditions. Test results are currently being evaluated by aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

"These actively controlled wingtips have the potential to further reduce civil aircraft fuel consumption by about 2.5% compared with conventional winglets," says Walter Stephan, chairman of FACC AG, pointing out the benefits of this invention. "However, people living near airports will also benefit from the innovation: Thanks to improved aerodynamics, the novel winglets ensure lower noise levels during take-off and landing. A technology to make flying more efficient and greener in future."

FACC worked to develop the winglets with Airbus Group Innovations, the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (Fraunhofer IFAM) and the Spanish research center for composite materials (FIDAMC).