Airbus fello’fly program recruits airlines to test wake energy retrieval technique


Airbus has signed agreements with Frenchbee and SAS Scandinavian Airlines to test the operational feasibility of Airbus’ demonstrator project, fello’fly, for reducing aviation emissions.

Inspired by biomimicry, fello’fly is based on Wake Energy Retrieval (WER) to reduce aviation emissions. WER replicates the behaviour of birds, which fly together to reduce their energy consumption. The technique of a follower aircraft retrieving energy lost by a leader, by flying in the smooth updraft of air the wake creates, reduces fuel consumption in the range of 5-10% per trip.

As well as the airlines, three Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP) will participate in the testin: France’s DSNA (Direction des Services de la Navigation Aérienne), the UK’s NATS (National Air Traffic Services) and Eurocontrol.

Frenchbee and SAS will provide expertise in flight planning and operations for the collaborative requirements necessary for the fello’fly flight tests, said Airbus. DSNA, NATS and EUROCONTROL will contribute air navigation expertise about how the two aircraft can be brought safely together while minimizing impact on today’s procedures.

In parallel Airbus engineers will continue to develop on the technical solution to assist pilots in ensuring that aircraft remain safely positioned. Under the agreement, Airbus, Frenchbee, SAS, DSNA, NATS and Eurocontrol will develop a safe and realistic concept of operations (CONOPS) necessary to shape future operational regulations for the fello’fly flights.

Flight testing is planned to take place using two Airbus A350 aircraft involving  the airlines and ANSPs next year in an oceanic airspace.

Given the high potential to make a significant impact on emissions reduction for the aviation industry as a whole, directly contributing to the sector’s sustainable growth goals, Airbus is targeting a controlled Entry-Into-Service (EIS), which is expected by the middle of this decade.

Previous tests Airbus conducted in 2016 have shown the technique could reduce the amount of fuel used by airlines by up to 10%.

fello’fly is part of Airbus UpNext, an Airbus subsidiary created to give future technologies a development fast track by building demonstrators at speed and scale.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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