Airbus unveils ‘Bird of Prey’ conceptual airliner

Airbus has unveiled a conceptual design for a new airliner that pushes the boundaries of technology and innovation with its bird-like appearance, created to inspire a new generation of aeronautical engineers.

Dubbed the 'Bird of Prey' due to wing and tail structures which mimic those of an eagle or falcon, it features individually controlled feathers providing active flight control. Airbus Image
Dubbed the ‘Bird of Prey’ due to wing and tail structures which mimic those of an eagle or falcon, it features individually controlled feathers providing active flight control. Airbus Image

Dubbed the ‘Bird of Prey’ due to wing and tail structures which mimic those of an eagle or falcon, it features individually controlled feathers providing active flight control. The split tail enables fine control while the lack of a vertical tail significantly reduces drag. Among the other biomimicry features are a blended wing to fuselage joint mirroring the graceful and aerodynamic arch of a bird of prey.

Signposting the exciting direction of design within the U.K.’s world-class aerospace industry, the ‘Bird of Prey’ has been launched on the opening day of the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford by Dr. Liam Fox MP, the Secretary of State for International Trade: “The U.K. is a pioneer of aerospace and engineering; today half the world flies on U.K.-designed and built aircraft wings. The Bird of Prey concept aircraft, supported by the Government’s Great Britain campaign, gives an exciting glimpse into the future of the sector — ground-breaking, fuel efficient and immensely innovative — demonstrating the strength and creativity of British engineering.”

The Bird of Prey is not intended to represent an actual aircraft concept; its primary purpose is to inspire young engineers. However, the concept is grounded in reality and gives an insight into what a future regional aircraft could look like. It is an extrapolation of what could be done with technologies that currently form the basis of research within Airbus, such as hybrid-electric propulsion to reduce atmospheric emissions, active control systems and advanced composite structures.

We need a new type of engineering and a new breed of engineers and Airbus wants the Bird of Prey to show the younger generation that engineering is entering an exciting new era and that they can make a difference.

Bird of Prey also highlights the U.K.’s high value design credentials, which are fundamental to the nation reinforcing its position as a global leader of innovation and engineering excellence capable of delivering innovative products that keep the industry at the forefront of aerospace technology.

The U.K. is unique in having widespread presence in advanced engineering and a thriving digital sector. Bringing those together with the imagination of a younger generation is intended to give the U.K. a lead in the global re-engineering of engineering itself.

“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 UK’s crucially-important aerospace sector. 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 Airbus A350 passenger jet that biomimicry, literally learning from the genetics of animals, that nature has some of the best lessons we can learn about design. Who can’t help but be inspired by such a creation,” said Martin Aston, senior manager at Airbus.

“Birds in flight have captured the imagination for centuries. The very first engineers looked to nature to work out how to emulate flight, and now the Airbus Bird of Prey concept will play an important role in inspiring the engineers of tomorrow. It is essential that we spark fascination and excitement in the coming generations to attract them towards pioneering sustainable advances for the future of aviation,” explained Sir Brian Burridge, chief executive of the Royal Aeronautical Society.


“This Airbus concept illustrates the creative potential in aerospace to exploit radically new technologies and design ideas. If we are to incorporate these ideas into future products, we will need to develop new and better design capabilities that are able to explore beyond the current design paradigm, validate complex solutions and radically reduce the cost of development,” added James McMicking, chief strategy officer at the Aerospace Technology Institute.

Nick West, chief executive of the Air League, said: “The Air League believes that the Airbus Bird of Prey concept is a great way to capture the imagination and inspire young people to develop a career interest in engineering, aerospace and aviation. The project brings together many aspects of aerodynamics, aero structures, advanced propulsion systems and design which encapsulate the pioneering spirit of Airbus.”

“The IET aims to inspire the next generation of engineers and help to plug the nationwide engineering skills shortage. More than 200,000 people with engineering skills are required each year to meet demand in the next five years and it is estimated that there will be an annual shortfall of close to 60,000 engineers and technicians to fill these roles. The importance of high value design — applying advanced engineering to translate an idea from an initial concept into a commercial product — to the U.K.’s economy cannot be underestimated. We’re delighted to endorse this Airbus project, promoting the importance of HVD and we hope the Bird of Prey prototype helps to inspire our next generation to choose engineering careers and meet the demand for skills,” said Nigel Fine, chief executive at the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

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