Airbus' Bird of Prey Concept Aircraft

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has just unveiled a fascinating, forward-thinking, theoretical design for a hybrid-electric, turbo-propeller aircraft, created with regional air transportation in mind.

The “Bird of Prey” concept, whose innovative aerodynamic features are informed by the natural characteristics of aerial predators, incorporates blended wing-to-fuselage joints that mirror the graceful and aerodynamic arch of an eagle or falcon.

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“Inspired by efficient mechanics of a bird, it has wing and tail structures that mimic those of a bird of prey, while featuring individually controlled feathers that provide active flight control,” Airbus explained in a statement.

The conceptual model is based on the notion of biomimicry—the design and production of materials, structures and systems inspired by nature. In a statement, Airbus said that it has learned from its work on the A350 XWB passenger jet that nature provides some of the best lessons and models for man-made designs.

The company also stated that it believes the principle of biomimicry bears the potential to help advance the industry-wide priority of making aviation more sustainable—flying cleaner, greener and quieter than ever before.

The Bird of Prey design was unveiled at the Royal International Air Tattoo air show this past Friday, July 19, 2019, by Liam Fox, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade. The concept’s big reveal acted to underscore the UK’s continuing leadership in the aerospace sector, as well as highlighting Airbus’ ongoing achievements during this, its 50th anniversary year.

According to a CNN report, the aircraft would be capable of carrying up to 80 passengers and would burn 30 to 50 percent less fuel than comparable aircraft types currently in operation.

Although not intended for actual production, Airbus’ Bird of Prey is based upon solid, realistic design concepts, and, with its introduction, designers hoped to achieve some insight as to what the future of regional aircraft could look like.

“Our ‘Bird of Prey’ is designed to be an inspiration to young people and create a ‘wow’ factor that will help them consider an exciting career in the crucially-important aerospace sector,” explained Martin Aston, a senior manager at Airbus. “One of the priorities for the entire industry is how to make aviation more sustainable—making flying cleaner, greener and quieter than ever before. We know from our work on the A350 XWB passenger jet that through biomimicry, nature has some of the best lessons we can learn about design. Who can’t help but be inspired by such a creation?”

The conceptual design initiative is backed by the GREAT Britain campaign, the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Air League, the Institution of Engineering and the Technology and Aerospace Technology Institute.