A NEW SHAPE IN THE SKY
The traditional solution for supersonic flight has been a delta wing shape. Spanwise airflow across the delta wing trips the boundary layer (the air flowing closest to the surface), causing turbulent airflow, which increases drag.
Aerion’s thin wing and horizontal stabilizer, with moderately swept leading edges, reduce spanwise flow, allowing for laminar flow on these surfaces. Friction (viscous) drag over the wing is reduced by about 70 percent. When the wing and tail are integrated with an optimized airframe, net friction drag reduction is up to 20 percent which, in aeronautical terms, is a huge leap in efficiency.
Aerion CTO Dr. Richard Tracy in the University of Washington low-speed wind tunnel.
The benefits of Supersonic Natural Laminar Flow (SNLF) for a commercial aircraft were first posited in the 1980’s by aerodynamicist Dr. Richard Tracy (a founder of Aerion and its chief technology officer). His cutting-edge research under contract to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) led to proving flights with NASA from 1999 to 2014.
In a series of groundbreaking NASA flights, in which an Aerion-constructed SNLF airfoil was carried beneath an F-15B at speeds up to Mach 2, extensive laminar flow matched analytical predictions from Aerion’s proprietary software programs.
The flights thus accomplished two goals—demonstrating robust laminar flow at subsonic and supersonic speeds; and validating the predictive capabilities of Aerion’s computer design tools, which are necessary to take practical advantage of SNLF.
NASA F-15B with SNLF wing mounted below fuselage. Despite disturbed airflow from the body of the F-15B, laminar flow remained stable and robust as shown above.
Aerion proprietary software rapidly analyzes airflow patterns over wings and airframe in a process of continuous refinement and optimization.
SOFTWARE AND TESTING
To preserve the drag-reducing benefits of the Aerion wing, it must be carefully integrated into a low drag airframe. Aerion used proprietary full-airframe optimization software to arrive at the unique, streamlined shape of the AS2.
Aerion develops commercial software products that are licensed to the industry at large. Visit the Aerion Technologies website for more information about the software products the company licenses publicly.
The Aerion airframe will be constructed largely of carbon fiber composite structures, with titanium used for leading edges and some internal structures.
The Aerion wing is thin, smooth, and efficient, while also light and immensely strong thanks to carbon fiber construction, similar to wing structures of modern fighter aircraft. The entire AS2 airframe is a symphony of subtle curves for an absolute minimum of drag.