Aircraft

Russian blended wing aircraft concept keeps on the down low

Russian blended wing aircraft ...
Wind tunnel model of the TsAGI heavy transport
Wind tunnel model of the TsAGI heavy transport
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Interior view of the TsAGI heavy transport
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Interior view of the TsAGI heavy transport
Wind tunnel model of the TsAGI heavy transport
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Wind tunnel model of the TsAGI heavy transport

A new Russian concept aircraft is designed to fly high by staying down low. Russia's Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute named after N.E. Zhukovsky (TsAGI) is developing a new heavy transport aircraft for intercontinental routes that carries up to 500 tonnes (492 tons) of cargo in a blended wing that combines the wing and the fuselage of the aircraft, yet only reaches an altitude of between three and 12 m (10 and 40 ft) over water and land.

The low-flying leviathan is what is known in aviation circles as a Ground Effect Vehicle (GEV). A GEV is a form of aircraft that uses short, wide wings to trap a layer of air between the undersurface of the aircraft and the ground, producing vortices and downdraughts that generate more lift and less drag at very low altitudes, which allows the craft to carry heavy loads with less fuel. Here, the effect is produced by wings that blend into the body of the aircraft to not only create more lift, but also provide more interior space for cargo.

Interior view of the TsAGI heavy transport
Interior view of the TsAGI heavy transport

If it ever reaches the production stage, the TsAGI transport will be capable of taking off and landing on conventional runways and will carry standardized containers that would be loaded inside the wings through flap doors on the leading edge of the body and wing. According to the designers, the center section will hold the cockpit and a tank of cryogenic liquefied natural gas. This unconventional fuel was selected because it's lighter and burns cleaner, yet with much higher efficiency and safety than standard aviation fuel.

Currently, the concept project is undergoing subsonic wind tunnel tests on a model to simulate take-offs, landings, and cruising. In these tests, a metal screen was placed underneath the model to generate the ground effect. The designers say the model showed stability in flight with and without the screen.

Source: TsAGI

21 comments
Simon Gibson
This is a re-using of the extensive work the Russian's did with their Ekranoplan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow-Iffjhy2o).
Chizzy
russia releases designs for this type of ground effect aircraft every 20 years or so. its an idea that never seems to get off the ground.
jayel
This is a reworked 1960's Lippisch design from Germany. The correct term for "GEV" is WIG - (Wing in Ground effect) defined by the UN IMO (International Maritime Organisation) which has design and operational regulations established for WIG craft.
tapasmonkey
So... a plane whose main obstacle is electricity pylons
Jose Gros
Nice project!. It reminds me both the Burnelli's lifting fuselages and the Alexander Lippisch ground effect machines, he had some followers, but none with such a huge dimension. Good luck, + Gesund
Mzungu_Mkubwa
The (apparently) immense width will severely limit its operating theater, but I'm betting shipping companies might welcome such an alternative to get those knock-off iPhones and exploding hoverboards over to market more quickly!
PaulEckerson
Curious if it is amphibious. Any failure while crossing the Atlantic or Pacific would be a caostrophic if it isn't.
VincentWolf
Mankind seriously needs to invent a real world flubber.
Grunchy
I wonder what's the point of that tailplane? Usually an airplane is designed to stall naturally in a nose-down direction so it can quickly build speed & get out of stall, which means the tailplane usually is designed to provide negative lift. But if you're flying in ground effect you shouldn't need that capability, because before the airplane can stall it has already landed. Also I wonder how these do flying over rough seas with swells greater than 12m, I presume in such conditions they would have to fly above the ground effect zone at reduced efficiency, if they could even do it at all. Imagine if it ever had to set down, it would be dashed to pieces! Oh well no different than any other airplane, none of them do well in the sea. At 38,000 ft you would have time to radio for help & maybe even make a glide plan, whereas at 12m you wouldn't have that luxury.
ConcordLift
Fast, close to the ground = risk of death, bad idea. Much better idea, higher in ground effect, seen by thousands of professional without any flaw. The lowest cost per ton mile. See ConcordLift for AIAA paper, presentation, animation - also being changed to show short field ability. There are some issues in that. They are addressed, solved, in a paper in preparation. Actually the thin air of high altitude also has cost benefits. ConcordLift can be built for low and slow or for high and faster.