Airbus has signed agreements with two airline customers and three air navigation service providers to demonstrate the operational feasibility of its “fello’fly” demonstrator project for reducing aviation emissions, the company said Wednesday. Inspired by biomimicry, fello’fly will employ a phenomenon called Wake Energy Retrieval (WER). WER replicates the behavior 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 could reduce fuel consumption by between 5 and 10 percent per trip, Airbus reckons.
The airlines—Frenchbee and SAS Scandinavian Airlines—have agreed to provide flight planning and operations expertise for collaborative requirements needed to bring together aircraft before and during a fello’fly operation. France’s DSNA (Direction des Services de la Navigation Aérienne), the UK’s NATS, and Eurocontrol will help define how controllers can safely bring two aircraft together, thereby minimizing changes to current procedures. Meanwhile, Airbus will continue working on the technical solution for pilots to ensure their aircraft remain safely positioned.
Under the agreements, Airbus, Frenchbee, SAS, DSNA, NATS, and Eurocontrol plan to develop a safe and realistic concept of operations (Conops) necessary to shape future operational regulations for "fello’flights." Flight testing will take place throughout 2020 using two Airbus A350s. The airlines and ANSPs will become involved as early as next year, flying operations in oceanic airspace. Airbus said it has targeted a “controlled” entry into service (EIS) by the middle of the decade.
Fello’fly is part of Airbus UpNext, an Airbus subsidiary created to speed the development of future technologies by building demonstrators at speed and scale.