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Smart High Lift Devices for Next-Generation Wings

Tags: Air

State of the Art - Background

All aerodynamic concepts for significant reduction of drag such as laminarisation require slim high-aspect-ratio wings. However, state-of-the-art high lift systems will suffer from the reduced construction space and do not cope with the required surface quality. Thus, SADE will develop suitable 'morphing' high lift devices. The seamless 'smart leading-edge device' is an indispensable enabler for laminar wings and offers great benefit for reducing acoustic emissions; the 'smart single-slotted flap' with active camber capability permits a further increased lift. Thanks to their ability to adapt the wing's shape, both devices also offer aerodynamic benefits for cruise flight.

Morphing devices imply the integration of drive systems into tailored lightweight structures and therefore reduce complexity and mass. Furthermore, focusing on electric actuators can diminish the energy consumption, which directly reduces the aircraft operational costs as well as the environmental impact.

However, the high elasticity required for efficient adaptability of the morphing structure is diametrically opposed to the structural targets of conventional wing design like stiffness and strength. To find the optimum compromise, precise knowledge on target shapes for maximum high lift performance and sizing loads is mandatory.


SADE aims at a major step forward in the development and evaluation of the potential of morphing airframe technologies and contributes to the research work on the reduction of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions through new intelligent low-weight structures.

The project objectives are:

- Develop and investigate the morphing high lift devices 'smart leading edge' and 'smart single-slotted flap';

- Enhance morphing structure concepts and develop solutions which cope with the requirements of real aircraft and industrialisation;

- Increase technological readiness of morphing structures and verify experimentally;

- Perform multidisciplinary design and assess benefits for the overall system and for all individual disciplines;

- Reduce system complexity and mass;

- Enable seamless high lift devices and therefore enable laminar wings;

- Increase lift-over-drag in take-off thus enabling steeper climb and reducing noise footprint;

- Increase maximum lift in approach referring to conventional droop-nose devices;

- Reduce noise emissions in approach compared to high lift systems containing slats;

- Reduce power consumption following the more-electric-aircraft concept;

- Concentrate European experts on morphing. Create a roadmap itemising further research until the first experimental flight can take place with full-scale morphing wing devices.

Description of Work

The most essential challenge for morphing today is the technological realisation and optimisation of available promising concepts for smart structures towards the special requirements of full-scale systems. Another challenge results from the aero-elastic condition the structural system is optimised for. SADE comprises all relevant disciplines for the investigation of morphing wings, operates a state-of-the-art virtual development platform, but focuses on the structural challenge of realising morphing high lift devices.

The work includes:

1. Initialise a common database with a reference geometry related to previous projects and establish a central data management infrastructure.

2. Calculate the aerodynamic target shapes for the morphing structures and structural design studies for the smart leading edge and the smart single-slotted flap.

3. Component development, manufacturing and testing (skins, actuation, frame structure).

4. Detailed structural design of both targeted smart high lift devices and the development of actuators and control concepts.

5. Design a modular wind-tunnel test bed based on a fixed wing-box concept.

6. Multidisciplinary analysis of both selected and designed smart high lift devices.

7. Manufacture and assembly of test bed and morphing devices.

8. Static and dynamic tests with the wind-tunnel functional model.

9. Wind tunnel tests at TsAGI 101.

Expected Results

In order to compare the effect of the different morphing high lift systems on real aircraft a baseline reference from a previous project will be selected. This reference will be used to compare the performance impact of a change in the high lift system's design. The performance potential will be measured on a combined basis of the weight impact and the direct operating cost (DOC) impact. The interrelation between added weight as compared to the baseline and added lift is to be considered for the weight impact. Direct operating costs are considered as a measure for the economic feasibility of a candidate concept. The cumulative effects of the total weight impact, and the impact on fuel efficiency, maintenance complexity, purchase price, etc. are all taken into account in the DOC. Thus, for the first time, DOCs relative to morphing high lift systems will be available.

SADE encompasses the development of morphing technologies, the realisation of morphing components and assesses the benefit at aircraft level. The project will open a roadmap itemising the further research required until full-scale flight tests take place with morphing wings.

SADE smart high lift configurations
SADE smart high lift configurations