Planes Flying in Geese-Like V-Formation For 5-10% Fuel Savings

Airbus will have fuel-saving v-formation flight tests of two Airbus A350 aircraft with airline tests as early as 2021 with flights over oceans. Flying in v-formation could reduce fuel usage by 5-10%.

Airbus is targeting a controlled Entry-Into-Service (EIS) by around 2025. Fello’fly is part of Airbus UpNext, an Airbus subsidiary created to give future technologies a development fast track by building demonstrators at speed and scale.

FelloFly Operations

In 2016, a series of Airbus flight tests demonstrated that significant fuel savings could be achieved when two aircraft fly approximately 3 kilometers apart—without compromising passenger comfort.

Air traffic management technology was not mature enough to enable aircraft to fly so close together in airspace. Improvements in real-time flight tracking and other air traffic technology are now being made. The new air traffic technology can make it safe to fly planes 3000 meters apart to get fuel savings. The goal of fello’fly is to prove the technical, operational and economic viability of wake-energy retrieval for commercial aircraft.

Airbus UpNext Projects

ATTOL – Autonomous Taxi, Take-off and Landing

The Autonomous Taxi, Take-off and Landing (ATTOL) project works to leverage computer-vision technologies and techniques to enable commercial aircraft to navigate and detect obstacles during taxi, take off, approach and landing. Fully autonomous test flights were successfully completed in 2020.

The ATTOL team is working closely with the Wayfinder team to advance autonomous flight technology at Airbus. The Wayfinder project—based at Acubed, Airbus’ innovation hub in Silicon Valley—aims to develop scalable, certifiable autonomy systems for aircraft, ranging from small urban air vehicles to large commercial aircraft.

Wayfinder software uses computer vision and machine learning to enable aircraft to detect its surrounding environment and calculate how best to navigate within it. Much like an autonomous car, it uses sensors such as cameras, radar, LiDAR—a laser-based detection method—and powerful on-board computers.

Maveric Blended Wing Airplanes

MAVERIC is a small-scale, remote-controlled aircraft demonstrator. The development of demonstrators like MAVERIC enables Airbus to accelerate understanding of new aircraft configurations and to mature the technology necessary to fly such a radically different aircraft.


The TELEO project will provide seamless smart routing in satellite constellations (LEO and GEO). TELEO will also boost ground-to-space communication data rates thanks to ultra-high throughput optical links. Flight demonstration is expected by end-2021.

Reliable Connected Fleet

Another project plans to revolutionize connectivity architecture by combining dependable and secure communications with superior service quality. The final demonstration will go live in 2019.

Written By Brian Wang,

14 thoughts on “Planes Flying in Geese-Like V-Formation For 5-10% Fuel Savings”

  1. Didn't Airbus just announce a big hydrogen (and possibly hybrid electric) aircraft initiative, baselining a medium BWB, a regional turboprop, and and regional tube+wings airliner?

  2. Two planes from different airlines that took off from different airports can still meet up and reach a mutually beneficial formation (split lead time 50/50). Everybody wins.

  3. you might reduce the drag at supersonic speeds but will destroy the control of the second aircraft. If the shock-waves are hitting in the right spot the next in the line it might be even outright destructive.

  4. This is going to break TCAS and a number of other collision avoidence mechanisms.

    I'd also add here that having 2 planes leave around the same time and arrive at near the same destination is going to make the problem much worse for air traffic control which is already struggling. I can only imagine trans atlantic and transpacific routes seeing much benefit here.

    The more interesting question though (to me) does the fuel savings persist at supersonic speed? traveling in the wake of a smaller "pilot" aircraft with a bigger hauler seems like it could open up the SS equation a bit.

  5. Increasing a long range aircraft’s range by 400-800 miles (or short range by 170-340 miles) is an additional factor that benefits beyond just the price of fuel. In business, improving your capabilities to offer a new product (point to point to more cities) is often more profitable than just cost savings.

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