In an effort to spark the imagination of the next generation of aeronautical engineers, Airbus has revealed its new Bird of Prey concept aircraft design. Unveiled at the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, UK, the design for a bird-like hybrid-electric, turbo-propeller regional transport aircraft features anatomical features of eagles or falcons.

One annoying problem with engineering is that if a device carries on along one line of development long enough, every machine in a particular class begins to look like all the others. Every smartphone looks like every other smartphone, every compact car looks like every other compact, and every passenger plane looks like all the others.

Part of this is due to the convergence of designs as engineers seek greater efficiency, but there's also a danger that the kind of creativity that can create major breakthroughs might be overlooked, so every now and again new envelope-pushing concepts are introduced to get young brain cells working at capacity on new ideas.

Airbus's new Bird of Prey concept is intended as just such a concept. Introduced on Friday with the backing of the GREAT Britain campaign, the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Air League, the Institution of Engineering, and the Technology and Aerospace Technology Institute, it also highlights Britain's leading role in the aerospace industry as well as celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Airbus group.

Airbus says that the biomimetic aircraft will never be built, but it does suggest some interesting engineering avenues. Birds have been a common source of aeronautical inspiration since the days of Leonardo da Vinici and even today features like anti-vortex wingtips get their start from studying soaring birds.

The Bird of Prey incorporate a number of technologies, such as hybrid-electric propulsion, active control systems, and advanced composite structures. But the most striking features are the wings with large, individually controlled "feathers" on the tips and the curved, blended wing-to-fuselage joint forming the aerodynamic arch of some gigantic Roc-like raptor. The fuselage also tapers like that of a bird, ending in a fan-like tail that uses its feathers for stability and active control.

"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," says 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?"

Source: Airbus