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Wings of the future

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Total project cost
€816 800
EU Contribution
€599 150
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Vehicle design and manufacturing (VDM)
Transport mode
Airborne icon
Transport policies
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Call for proposal
Link to CORDIS
Background & Policy context

The project originated from a very simple concept: imagine the airplane as a large body with end structures that have the possibility to change shape as if having internal nerve endings and muscles.

The aerodynamic shape of aircraft lifting surfaces must change during flight, due to the aerodynamic requirements of the different manoeuvres (ascent and descent operations, yaw). To this end, mobile surfaces have been introduced in conventional wings (ailerons, flaps, slats etc.), at the same time inevitably introducing additional weight, mechanisms, sources of vibrations and other well-known limitations.

An interesting alternative to mobile surfaces could be represented by 'self shaping wings', i.e. wings of which the surface can be elastically deformed through its entire length and managed in order to obtain the required lifting profile. Such wing performances could be obtained through the application of composite hybrid materials where layers of new generation of piezoelectric fibres are drowned and triggered by relatively low voltage.

Aim of the research is a deep understanding of the technical feasibility and limitations of such an application. Depending on the results, 'self shaping wings' (or 'Future Wings') could be more deeply investigated and designed in order to replace ailerons, slats, tail wings, rudders and, probably, even flaps: the relevant technology could have a really wide fields of applications (helicopter rotor blades, satellite panels, etc.).


Project objectives will be pursued developing at first theoretical models and computational new generation algorithms aimed at designing, optimising and afterwards manufacturing a scaled model of 'Future Wings', on which experimental tests will be carried out in order to understand the viability of the original idea, which has the potential to bring a radical new approach to the design of flying vehicles lifting surfaces configuration.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
The European Commission
Type of funding
Public (EU)


Self-shaping wings to redefine aviation in the future

Increasing the aerodynamics of an aeroplane by developing wings that change their shape could one day lead to faster, more fuel-efficient aircraft.

The idea of building lighter, more efficient and more aerodynamic aircraft is crucial for saving on energy costs and lowering the aviation industry’s carbon footprint. The EU-funded (FUTUREWINGS) (Wings of the future) project envisioned an aeroplane that can change its shape during flight – e.g. through self-shaping wings – in order to increase flight efficiency. It worked on testing the viability of such a radical concept, focusing on development of a thin-walled beam whose shape can be controlled through piezo-electric actuators.

To achieve this, the project team researched how piezo-electric technology can manipulate the shape of beams or other structural elements involved in aerospace engineering. It built a novel electronic control system required to activate sets of macro fibre composite components and defined the numerical procedures to simulate hybrid structures.

A key project achievement involved the design and testing of torsion specimens and bending specimens made up of hybrid composite active material. The project team also verified the numerical analysis and the design of the Future-Wing concept.

FUTUREWINGS then compared the aero-elasticity of the conceived aircraft model with that of conventional aircraft and conducted flight simulations to validate the aeromechanical behaviour of the futuristic aircraft concept.

In effect, the project furthered the use of smart material that transforms aircraft wings and tail into ‘living tissue’, facilitating aircraft control by changing the shape of its surfaces and aerodynamics. The research results have been disseminated through workshops and publications, while the project partners have made plans to continue collaboration beyond the project’s end. Although still at an early level of development, so-called ‘self-shaping structures’ could play an important part in the aviation and engineering of the future.


Lead Organisation
Universita Di Pisa
Lungarno Pacinotti 43/44, 56126 Pisa, Italy
Organisation website
EU Contribution
€198 200
Partner Organisations
Ichrome Ltd
Organisation website
EU Contribution
€130 800
Piaggio Aero Industries S.p.a
Viale Castro Pretorio 116, 185 ROMA, Italy
Organisation website
EU Contribution
€52 950
Smart Material Gmbh
Loebtauer Straße 69, 1159 Dresden, Germany
EU Contribution
€217 200


Technology Theme
Aircraft design and manufacturing
Morphing wing
Development phase

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