Seagull Made of Metal

Joachim Huyssen, from the Nortwest University located in South Africa, started rethinking the principles and technologies that apply to aerodynamics and how to create an aircraft that was energy efficient. He began collaborating with Geoffrey Spedding, from the University of Southern California, and together they began creating an aircraft that now closely resembles a bird we often marvel at, namely the seagull. Nature is often looked at when it comes to aviation technology, although the men have confirmed that though their design resembles a seagull, it was purely by accident.

While Spedding was in South Africa, Joachim Huyssen approached him with his design ideas, which were extremely unconventional. Even though the design was unique in many ways, Spedding was intrigued by the new challenge and jumped on board as a collaborator. The new energy efficient and aerodynamic body of the aircraft is short, as well as the tail being best described as stubby. The fact that it does not have a conventional tail means that there is less drag on the aircraft and its bowed wings (gull wing configuration) are therefore the instruments that are moved to control pitch and stability. Most of the technology in regard to aviation has already been tried and tested, but when it comes to designing more fuel efficient aircraft, the challenge is still out there and there are new frontiers to be explored.

Spedding was quoted saying, “The most important point is that we may be wasting large amounts of fossil fuel by flying in fundamentally sub-optimal aircraft designs. At the very least, we can show that there exists an alternative design that is aerodynamically superior. One may argue that there is now an imperative to further explore this (and perhaps other) designs that could make a significant difference to our global energy consumption patterns.” As the fuel consumption and environmental crisis become more of a threat, there will be a greater need for more energy efficient forms of transportation, and currently, Spedding and Huyssen find themselves on the frontlines of new discoveries in regard to aviation. The new aircraft designed by them might be a familiar sight in our skies sooner than we might anticipate.