The VELA - Project

Very Efficient Large Aircraft


With destinations on all continents of the world the airplane has become the most important means of transportation for medium and long range distances. This guarantees the economic growth and advances international collaboration.

The predicted growth of air traffic requires innovative ideas and technological solutions with respect to efficiency and environmental impacts for the new future generation of aircraft in the following decades. With the upcoming wide body airplane AIRBUS A380 the technical limits of the conventional airliner configuration are attained. Aerodynamics, range, and capacity have been optimized and no significant improvements seem to be within reach for this setup. To fill this gap in the future, the European aircraft industry and research facilities have already started investigating new, unconventional transport aircraft configurations.

3D-view of the VELA 1 - model
Pressure distribution on the surface of the VELA 1 - model
Pressure distribution on the surface of the VELA 2 - model
One promising design is the Flying Wing or Blended Wing Body. Passengers, fuel, freight, and systems are all located within the wing. By distributing loads spanwise, wing bending moments could be reduced, thereby leading to an advantageous structure mass. Likewise, the wetted surface area of a Flying Wing is less than that of a compareable conventionell aircraft which leads to lower drag forces. With these improvements engineers hope to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% compared with a common airplane of our days. The Flying Wing also offers opportunities to reduce noise impact on its environment. These innovations are the main motivation to develop a 750 passenger aircraft for long range distances.

Goals of the VELA-project

The VELA-Project was launched in mid 2002 and is founded by the European Union (EU). Its runtime is currently limited to three years. Further projects, which will use and improve knowledge gained on the VELA-Project results are expected.

With AIRBUS as the leading company, 17 European partners from both industry and research sectors are working to gain knowledge in all fields of aircraft design. The goal is to find out the benefits and potential, but also the problems of a flying wing transport aircraft. The VELA-Project is the first step in a long-term process of the development of a next generation transport aircraft, that will secure and strengthen Europe's position in the international aicraft manufacturing market for the next 30-50 years.

A wide database is currently being generated to aid with all the gained knowledge rapid design of Flying Wings. Engineers are examineing classic topics of aircraft design such as aerodynamics, stability and control, and structures, as well as issues beeing important for the succes of a real commercial aircraft like cabin layout, evacuation, and passenger acceptance. As a starting point, two different Flying Wings were designed to cover the wide range of possible configurations (VELA 1 and VELA 2). Contributing work from partners build upon these two configurations.

Under the leadership of the Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology (DLR), light weight wind tunnel models of the two configurations will be built by DLR and ONERA in 1:50 scale. The models will be used for wind tunnel tests in Toulouse (France) and in Braunschweig (Germany). While in Toulouse static tests will be performed, in Braunschweig a special setup for dynamic tests will be used.

Another task assigned to the Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology, is the numerical optimization of the Flying Wing. Under consideration of some constraints several geometry parameters will be varied to find the optimal configuration. Each partner of the VELA-Consortium will start with a different geometry to produce a wide database for later use in design tasks. For aerodynamical calculations the DLR-Codes FLOWER and TAU will be used.



Airbus Germany, England, Frace, Spain
PEDECE Portugal
IBK Germany


DLR Germany
ONERA France
INTA Spain
CIRA Italy
NLR Netherlands
VZLU Czech Republic


TU Braunschweig Germany
TU München Germany
Bristol University England
University of Greenwich England

Carsten Liersch
German Aerospace Center

Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology
, Transport Aircraft
Tel: +49 531 295-2434

Fax: +49 531 295-2320

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