High Aspect Ratio Tools (HART)

Lead Participant: Airbus Operations Limited


There is a continuing need to improve cash operating costs to remain competitive. Improving aircraft fuel-efficiency and reducing environmental impact is key. One way of achieving these goals is to use higher aspect ratio wing designs that lead to reductions in aerodynamic drag. Such a design approach does however tend to produce more flexible wings, where the internal structural sizing and design is dominated by complex nonlinear aero-elastic (fluid-structure interaction) effects. Airport gate sizes do however constrain the maximum allowable wing span of commercial aircraft. This can be mitigated with the use of Folding Wing-tips so that aircraft with longer wings can fit within the airport gate limits. It is therefore becoming essential to be able to model nonlinear effects and new devices such as Folding Wing-tips at an earlier stage in the design process to inform design decisions.

Airbus and the University of Bristol (UoB) will establish a two-year Collaborative Research and Development project that will develop a range of aerodynamic and aeroelastic technologies that were identified (for further development) during the recently completed Innovate UK funded Agile Wing Integration (AWI) project. These developments will be applied in conjunction with existing Airbus processes for wing sizing and performance purposes, to enable industrial level preliminary design and trade-off studies to be made for any flight vehicle with high aspect ratio wings. This could be commercial aircraft or other vehicles such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Significant innovation is required in this area to allow design teams access to a new design space beyond what has been classically used in the last 40 years. In particular, the proposed toolset will enable nonlinear dynamic assessment of novel aircraft wing designs with very high span, taking into account the shape of the wings in flight, the response to turbulence and gusts, and any inherent aeroelastic instabilities such as flutter. Based upon this improved modelling capability it will be possible to evaluate the benefits of different technology enablers, including composite wings, Strut-braced wings and Folding Wing-tips to exploit the inherent advantages of higher aspect ratio wings.

Close interaction between the industrial and academic partners will be key to the success of the project and the academic researchers will spend a significant amount of time based at Airbus UK. The application of these technologies at Airbus will enhance future collaboration and knowledge exchange across the Airbus business groups for unconventional aircraft wing designs.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Airbus Operations Limited, BRISTOL £297,996 £ 148,998


University of Bristol, United Kingdom £127,478 £ 127,478


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