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Business

Airbus shows off MAVERIC, an unusual aircraft to test blended wing bodies - Ars Technica

future plane! —

First the Flying V, now MAVERIC—are blended body designs really going to happen?

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  • In June 2019, MAVERIC first took to the skies. You might notice that it looks a bit small compared to the grass by the side of the runway—that's because MAVERIC is a scale model for testing low-speed and stall mechanics.

    Airbus

  • Future flight tests for MAVERIC will explore its handling characteristics, how its control surfaces work, and so on.

    Airbus

  • Airbus is keen to see if a blended wing body design can realize the potential 20% fuel savings that the design should be capable of.

    Airbus

  • The company also thinks the design could be a lot quieter than current narrow-body airliners.

    Airbus

  • A rendering of a BWB cabin. By keeping passengers close to the centerline of the body, it shouldn't be too noticeable when the plane banks.

    Airbus

  • Will we ever see a blended wing body deployed commercially? I sure hope so.

    Airbus

On Tuesday at the Singapore air show, Airbus revealed one of its new technology test beds. It's called MAVERIC—short for Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls, and it eschews the traditional airliner shape for a more unconventional "blended wing body" (BWB) design. This packs a lot more interior volume into an aircraft than one with a traditional long, thin fuselage would for the same overall length and wingspan. In fact, Airbus has been flight testing MAVERIC in secret; the project began in 2017 and first flew in June 2019. However, don't expect to fly on it any time soon—although it's airworthy, it's also only a scale model, measuring 6.6 feet (2m) long and 10.5 feet (3.2m) wide.

"By testing disruptive aircraft configurations, Airbus is able to evaluate their potential as viable future products. Although there is no specific time line for entry-into-service, this technological demonstrator could be instrumental in bringing about change in commercial aircraft architectures for an environmentally sustainable future for the aviation industry," said Jean-Brice Dumont, EVP for Engineering Airbus, in a press release.

One big hope for the BWB design is to make a more efficient airliner. Unlike cars, trucks, buses, or even garbage trucks, electric passenger airliners remain a long way off. Air travel is going to keep burning hydrocarbons due to their sheer energy density, whether those are biofuels or not. And if we can't replace hydrocarbon fuels for air travel in the near- or mid-term, then surely we could find a way to get people to their destinations while releasing less CO2 into the atmosphere.

Airbus thinks that a BWB design should be about 20 percent more fuel efficient than a conventional single-aisle twin-engined airliner using the same engines. If that number sounds familiar, that's because it's the same fuel savings predicted by another BWB design we explored recently,

the Flying V

designed by the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands.

MAVERIC is a quite different design to the Flying V, which should mean even greater interior volume. How to best use that space is something Airbus is also exploring, although that's being done full size and in silico rather than with action figures and a scale model.

Listing image by Airbus


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