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New wing design has deep rootsNew wing design has deep roots

A research program funded by the European Union dug deep into aviation history for inspiration on a futuristic design that aims to increase efficiency by doing away with wingtips.

Rendering courtesy of University of Pisa (Italy), Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering. PARSIFAL project has been funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.

The Parsifal Project has produced a proposed design dubbed PrandtlPlane, an homage to Ludwig Prandtl who developed an idea for an airplane wing that boosted efficiency (and reduced drag) by wrapping around on itself to form a box around the fuselage. Largely ignored in the 1920s, the concept was dusted off by Aldo Frediani, a professor at the University of Pisa, Italy, who coordinates the Parsifal project. Frediani used mathematics to prove Prandtl was on to something, and his team designed an airliner of the future around that concept.

“The introduction of aircraft as the PrandtlPlane developed in Parsifal, could be a step forward in the air traffic worldwide,” Frediani wrote in a newsletter produced by the project team. Expected benefits include a 50-percent increase in passenger capacity, reduced fuel consumption, more efficient engine operation, and other benefits including safety enhancements. A large aircraft using this configuration would virtually eliminate wingtip vortices, meaning smaller aircraft (such as, say, a Piper Cub) could more safely use the same runways.

Wings using this design could also be made stronger with less weight, employing a structure similar to stalks of grass, another source of inspiration for the team.

Reduced emissions of both noise and pollution are also expected. The research team hopes to have aircraft with box wing designs in the air in 10 to 15 years.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor-Web Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Technology

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