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New Aircraft Concepts Research


Over the past 50 years, the main driver for aircraft design has been to improve operational efficiency, particularly by reducing fuel consumption. Given that air traffic is predicted to more than double in the next 20 years and that both environmental and economic pressures will strongly increase, significant progress will need to be achieved in both improving the efficiency and minimising the environmental impact of aircraft.

This may not be achievable with today’s configuration. In order to provide the step changes required, new aircraft concepts will need to be developed.

Project objectives

The NACRE Integrated Project aims at integrating and validating technologies that will enable new aircraft concepts to be assessed and potentially developed. As such, it will not concentrate on one specific aircraft concept, but is aimed at developing solutions at a generic aircraft component level (cabin, wing, power plant system, fuselage), which will enable the results to be applicable for a range of new aircraft concepts. For each of the major aircraft components, the multidisciplinary investigations will explore the different associated aspects of aerodynamics, materials, structure, engines and systems with the goal of setting the standards in future aircraft design, thus ensuring improved quality and affordability, whilst meeting the tightening environmental constraints (emission and noise), with a vision of global efficiency of the air transport system.

Description of the work

From 2005 to 2009, NACRE proposes to investigate the development of the concepts and technologies required for novel aircraft concepts at a generic aircraft component level: wing, fuselage and engine integration. NACRE will enable the necessary capabilities to be developed and assessed, through their integration and validation on a range of novel aircraft concepts: Low Noise Aircraft, Flying Wing, Low Cost Aircraft.

Thus, in order to explore the most relevant capabilities and meet the widest range of challenges, the NACRE project proposes to identify a set of concepts tailored to address specific subsets of design drivers:

  • The Pro Green (PG) aircraft concepts, paying major emphasis on the reduction of environmental impact of air travel;
  • The Payload Driven Aircraft (PDA) concepts, aiming at optimised payload and appreciable quality of future aircraft for the end users;
  • The Simple Flying Bus (SFB), which puts the biggest emphasis on low manufacturing costs and minimum cost of ownership.

Irrespective of what final future product configurations might look like, these concepts will act as basic vectors, describing and stimulating the whole of future capability developments. More than the intrinsic value of any one concept, what is of importance is the consistent capability enhancement that they prepare.

The rationale is that each of these concepts will allow the exploration of alternative routes for the major aircraft components (fuselage, wing, engine integration) that are better suited to their specific targets and which would have been rejected in a balanced approach. The associated envelope of innovative designs (fuselage, wing, engine integration) and associated technologies will provide better answers to the full range of requirements, or expected ones. NACRE is therefore in essence a focused multi-disciplinary approach.

The NACRE consortium is composed of 35 partners from 13 countries, including Russia, and will take full benefit of the preliminary activities initiated in Europe on novel aircraft concepts in the Fifth Framework programme projects ROSAS, VELA and NEFA.

Expected results

A set of unconventional aircraft concept configurations will be developed:

  • Pro Green aircraft
  • Payload Driven Aircraft
  • Simple Flying Bus.

They will feature advanced components or systems i.e., wings, empennage, power plant installation, fuselage and cabin. These major aircraft components will undergo specific multidisciplinary exercises in order to develop the associated innovative capabilities (aerodynamics, acoustics, structure and systems).

Integration at overall aircraft level will be carried out in order to challenge the concepts’ objectives.