Airion Dynamics is developing active drag reduction skin which can be retrofitted onto existing aircraft at a lower cost than existing solutions. This system can reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency while cutting carbon emissions. OutsideInnovation was one of the original members of the Airion Dynamics team and plays key R&D roles in plasma physics, mechanical design, experimental design, and analysis. The technical details of this project are still largely proprietary and the information below is a vague as a result, but strong references and additional information are available on request.
Manufacturers continue to lag United Nations’ fuel efficiency goals for new aircraft. On average, the aviation industry is about 12 years behind the 2020 and 2030 fuel efficiency goals established by ICAO, the UN agency that oversees international aviation. Airion Dynamics’ mission is to solve this issue. A new plasma actuator system has been designed that can be retrofitted on to existing aircraft and scales to commercial levels. This has never before been accomplished in a cost effective manner at commercial scales.
Airion Dynamics has adopted a start-up style ‘fast-fail’ approach to this project that has allowed the team to rapidly come up to speed on the existing technology in the plasma actuator space. That same methodology was carried on through concept development and testing; allowing the team to select the most promising technology as quickly as possible. By looking at old ideas in a new way, applying new development techniques, and repackaging the system components in a more efficient manner, Airion Dynamics has been able to rapidly make significant progress on the technical challenges of this project.
Plasma actuators are not new technology. They have been in development for over 20 years by numerous academic and commercial institutions. Traditionally a more popular option on low reynolds number aircraft, the primary challenge on this project is scaling the plasma actuator system to a commercial size, high reynolds number, aircraft. Airion Dynamics has solved this problem by simplify the fundamentals of the existing technology using modern advances in other industries and deploying it in a new way. The second major challenge was creating a system that could be adapted to an existing aircraft, which requires significant creativity in the mechanical and electrical design spaces.