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D8 Aurora Flight Sciences

The D8 is a commercial aircraft concept that enables substantial efficiency improvements within the next decade. It reconfigured every aspect of the air vehicle to maximize efficiency, minimize operating costs, and improve the passenger experience.

In 2008, Aurora Flight Sciences, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Pratt & Whitney began an effort sponsored under NASAs N+3 program to revolutionize how aircraft of the future will be designed. Through physics-based modeling across multiple engineering disciplines, our team identified configuration of the air vehicle as the single most important opportunity to achieve a significant breakthrough in energy efficiency and environmental impact. The result was a new aircraft configuration, known as the D8, which is capable of achieving significant reductions in community noise, emissions, and fuel burn. The D8 configuration has the potential of achieving a 71% reduction in fuel burn, a 60 EPNdB reduction in noise, and an 87% reduction in LTO NOx all relative to a best-in-class Boeing 737-800 narrow-body aircraft.

The efficiency gains of the D8 are the result of a tightly integrated design approach, considering the air vehicle as a single, integrated system rather than an assembly of individual parts. For example, increased lift generated by the wide double-bubble fuselage means smaller wings are needed to carry the vehicles weight, resulting in less fuel to fly a given mission. When the engines are integrated into the back of the fuselage, thrust requirements are further reduced due to efficiencies from Boundary Layer Ingestion (BLI). This means that smaller engines can be used, which reduces weight, and hence fuel even further. This cycle of repeated optimization is what gives the D8 such groundbreaking efficiency, but it requires that all facets of the aircraft be designed together.

In 1958 the Boeing 707 ushered in the jet age. The aircrafts radical design allowed passenger planes to fly higher, faster and farther, making much of the world accessible within a single day's travel for the first time. The key to the 707s success was to challenge the accepted orthodoxy of aircraft design and piston engines by reconfiguring every aspect of the air vehicle to maximize speed, efficiency and payload capacity. Over 50 years later the 707s tube-wing design is still the global standard for all commercial aircraft.

Over that time there have been enormous technological advances in propulsion systems, avionics and structures, creating improvements in fuel efficiency, community noise and passenger costs. In comparison, the standard tube-wing design is only forecasted to continue improving at a rate of 1.5% per year. This limited rate of improvement comes despite billions of dollars spent in annual research and development and the efforts of thousands of highly qualified engineers.

Aurora Flight Sciences believed the time has come, once again, to challenge the status quo and change the paradigm of aircraft design. Utilizing existing technologies and advanced composite materials, we have re-thought and re-configured every aspect of the air vehicle to maximize efficiency, minimize operating costs, and improve the passenger experience.

Competing aerospace incumbents are unwilling and unable to adopt a radical new aircraft configuration given their significant investments in existing products, often driven by customer expectations and constraints. This business phenomenon, often described as the innovators dilemma, constrains industry incumbents from taking the risks necessary to radically restructure their product lines in order to remain competitive. Due to these self-imposed constraints, industry incumbents are unable to innovate from within; rather, innovation is often achieved when smaller entrepreneurial companies change the paradigm by developing new and sometimes radical products enabled by new and high-risk technologies.

Like the Boeing 367-80 flight demonstrator, the D8 is a sufficiently radical departure from the existing paradigm. As such, it will require a flight demonstrator to validate its aerodynamic design and to prove its revolutionary energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact. A 1:2 scale D8 X-Plane will achieve significant technological objectives, including demonstrating boundary layer ingestion enabled by a unique propulsion-airframe integration and demonstrating a revolutionary fuselage enabled by advances in the design and fabrication of composite structures.

NASA has often been at the forefront in driving change within the structure of the aerospace industry. NASA has the opportunity to achieve similar results in commercial aviation. Auroras approach is to assemble a team with the flexibility and expertise to put a revolutionary flight demonstrator in the air quickly. By partnering with NASA, MIT, Pratt & Whitney, and the FAA, the Aurora team will span 11 facilities across the US and employ "some of the worlds best engineers and scientists", all with one goal: building a 1:2 scale D8 X-Plane in three years.

Aurora Flight Sciences is a leader in the development and manufacturing of advanced unmanned systems and aerospace vehicles. We are headquartered in Manassas, Virginia and operate production plants in Bridgeport, West Virginia and Columbus, Mississippi. Aurora has Research and Development Centers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dayton, Ohio and Mountain View, California, and a European office, Aurora Swiss Aerospace, located in Luzern, Switzerland.

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Page last modified: 18-01-2017 19:35:40 ZULU