Researchers and engineers design modern aircraft wings to reach high levels of efficiency with the main outcome of weight saving and airplane lift-to-drag ratio increasing. Future commercial aircraft need to be mission-adaptive to improve their operational efficiency. Twistable trailing edge could be used to improve aircraft performances during climb and off-design cruise conditions in response to variations in speed, altitude, air temperature, and other flight parameters. Indeed, “continuous” span-wise twist of the wing trailing edge could provide significant reduction of the wing root bending moment through redistribution of the aerodynamic load leading to an increase of the payload/structural weight ratio. Within the framework of the Clean Sky 2 (CS2) European research project, the authors focused on the preliminary design of a full-scale composite multifunctional tab retrofitting the outboard morphing Fowler flap of a turboprop regional aircraft. The investigation domain of the novel device is equal to 5.15 meters in span-wise direction and 10% of the local wing chord.

The structural and kinematic design process of the actuation system is completely addressed: two rotary electromechanical motors, placed in the root and tip flap sections, are required to activate the inner mechanisms enabling delta twist angles up to 10 degrees along the outboard region when the flap is stowed in the wing. The structural layout of the thin-walled closed-section composite tab represents a promising concept to balance the conflicting requirements between load-carrying capability and shape adaptivity in morphing lightweight structures. The main design parameters are optimized to minimize actuation torque required for twisting while providing proper flexural rigidity to withstand limit aerodynamic pressure distributions for large airplanes. Finally, the embedded system functionality of the actuation system coupled with the composite wing trailing edge is fully investigated by means of detailed finite element simulations. Results of actuation system performances, and aeroelastic deformations considering operative aerodynamic loads demonstrate the potential of the proposed structural concept to be energy efficient, and lightweight for real aircraft implementation.

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