Putting wake vortex to sleep

 - August 11, 2008, 9:05 AM

French inventor Christian Hugues has patented a new wingtip device promising an 8-percent reduction in induced drag and a 5.4-percent increase in lift. The Minix system consists of a hollow cylindrical tube that dissipates wake vortex by passing it through a series of helical slits before it linearly flows out of an opening in the rear of the wingtip.

Having tested some 22 prototypes in a wind tunnel, the aeronautical engineering professor has been invited by Airbus to produce a pair of Minix units for testing on a 1/15th-scale model of the new A380. Hugues has said that the system could be adapted for virtually any type of aircraft, including helicopters. Initially, he expects production applications to start with general aviation aircraft operating at speeds of up to around 230 knots before the Minix is further developed for use on jets.

Having exhibited a model of Minix at June’s Paris Air Show, Hugues said he was inundated with interest in prospective licensed production from manufacturers around the world. He added that U.S. airframers showed especially strong interest.

Flight trials are expected to begin this month with a pair of Minix winglets installed on a Robin ultralight. The system’s full public debut will likely be at next year’s Reno Air Races, where French pilot Xavier Beck intends to use Minix on his F1 racer.