The future air transport system will be confronted with new challenges:it must be safer, greener and more effective than the current system.There will be more global industrial competition and fossil fuel reserves will diminish leading to increased fuel prices. New radical ideas, methods and technologies are needed to respond to these challenges and to keep Europe world leader in aviation.
One of the ideas that came from the "Out Of The Box" project was to launch and recover aircraft by using ground-based power. Several ideas were proposed like using microwave power technology, hoisting aircraft in the air, aircraft carriers type of aircraft launch and recovery etc.
The GABRIEL project is based on a system using magnetic levitation technology to enable aircraft take-off and landing. This unique solution will reduce aircraft fuel consumption since aircraft weight can be reduced as no undercarriage will be needed, less fuel needs to be carried on-board and engines can be smaller as less thrust is needed.
Using ground power will also reduce CO2 and NOx emissions at airports whilst noise levels can be substantially reduced since only airframe noise will be produced during take-off. Airport capacity can be increased by introducing multiple launch and recovery ramps thus alleviating the problem of limited runway capacity in Europe.
The GABRIEL project will investigate if such a system is feasible and cost effective.
Magnetic levitation is already a developed and deployed technology in rail transportation. However, research is needed to prove the technical feasibility of the concept in air transportation. GABRIEL will investigate how to adapt the existing magnetic levitation technology and to redesign the aircraft and more particularly its fuselage. The project will also study the feasibility of launch and recovery in connection to operating limits and aircraft flight controls. Operational and safety issues will be studied extensively. A small scale test will be designed to validate, assess the feasibility and estimate the limits of the assisted take-off and landing concept. The issue of emergency landings will be addressed.
The project will also perform an extensive cost benefit analysis, covering the effects on fuel savings, environmental benefits, new airport infrastructures and the required power supply.
The GABRIEL project involves 12 partners from 7 European countries.
Magnetic take-off and landing for fuel-efficient aircraft
An innovative technique to reduce aircraft weight is to replace landing gear with a magnetic-levitation take-off and landing (maglev TOL) system. An EU project aims to determine if this is feasible.
With ever-rising fuel prices, passenger aircraft designs aim for greater fuel efficiency. One proposal for achieving this is complete removal of an aircraft's landing gear and replacing it with an airport-based maglev TOL system.
The EU-funded 'Integrated ground and on-board system for support of the aircraft safe take-off and landing' (http://www.gabriel-project.eu (GABRIEL)) project will assess the feasibility of this proposal. It consists of 12 partners from 7 EU countries and has funding for 3 years.
Cost effectiveness will form part of GABRIEL's feasibility studies. The project aims to select the most suitable maglev technology and develop an operational concept, including flight control systems and safe operating protocols. GABRIEL will design the optimal aircraft/airport configuration, and assess the aircraft weight reductions.
The project evaluated aircraft energy consumption during take-off and landing, including an assessment of the major weight components of aircraft. In addition, GABRIEL assessed the safety requirements for critical maglev TOL parts, including a hazard analysis.
Investigations into enabling technologies concluded that the maglev TOL concept is promising, and that the required technologies are mature. A review of candidate technologies recommended the Inductrack system for further consideration. GABRIEL has defined its maglev TOL concept, based on the sledge cart system. This drew upon assessments of impact on a wide range of aviation aspects, including regulations, airport operations, safety and security. This information led to detailed designs for airport systems, layout and infrastructure. GABRIEL's calculations in terms of costs, energy, capacity and noise for take-off scenarios further suggest the system concept shows promise. GABRIEL's studies additionally determined that the effects of maglev technologies on passenger health would be negligible.
Experimental validation of the proposed systems is underway, using designs for a reference aircraft created by the consortium.
The GABRIEL maglev TOL proposal represents a revolutionary aviation operating concept. It would reduce aircraft weight, leading to decreased fuel consumption and increased airport capacity, both of which mean greater profitability.