How do you test novel aircraft without first having to build a full-size prototype? How do you test new configurations to make aviation more environment friendly? And how can you perform measurements on new propulsion systems for aircrafts based on battery or hydrogen technology? Computer simulations are only part of the answer. ‘Since so many factors are involved, there will always be discrepancies between a computer model and reality. Even wind tunnel tests with scaled models have their limitations. The solution for dynamic flight prediction? Sub-Scaled Flight Testing.

ScalAir - SSFD

Predicting aircraft behaviour: a flying laboratory

ScalAir is a project that was driven by the need for rapid development of new aircraft configurations. By studying the scale factors between a scaled-down model aircraft and the original, researchers are trying to gain insight into how these models can predict aircraft behaviour. This accurate scaled model is used to demonstrate the use of Sub-Scaled Flight Demonstrators in aircraft development.

Sub-Scaled Flight Demonstrator

Orange Aerospace developed a 1:8,5 scale model of an Airbus A320 aircraft - also called a Sub-Scaled Flight Demonstrator (SSFD). This project is part of the European Clean Sky 2 research program in which several European partners have cooperated. This accurate scaled model is used to validate the use of Sub-Scaled Flight Demonstrators in comparison to an already consisting aircraft development.

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Focus on accuracy and tolerances

The tolerances of the full-size aircraft also had to be scaled down, to get the most accurate results possible. This because a scaled model flies much more 'sensitively' than a real aircraft. For all parameters (such as mass, time, rates, speed) there are certain scaling rules, and we wanted to make these transparent and gain experience through them. This meant that we had to focus on accuracy and tolerances.

A sustainable project

This project has the potential to reduce the innovation cycle, which is necessary on our way to a carbon neutral society. Aircraft need to be more efficient and propelled in new ways with new energy sources. Each development needs to be tested. Statically and dynamically, a demonstrator  can do just that.

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 This project has received funding from the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 717183.         

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Martijn van Gellecum

Lead project engineer

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