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Airbus Launches World’s First “Stealthy” Building

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 22, 2013

Image Credit © Airbus S.A.S. 2013

Image Credit © Airbus S.A.S. 2013

Large building façades have always posed problems for aircraft landing systems, reflecting incoming radio waves across the landing zone, much like a mirror. This means buildings have traditionally had to be built a certain distance from the runway, rendering prime airport land unusable.

That could change now that Airbus, with the support of EADS Innovation Works, has opened the first “stealthy building” at the Toulouse Airbus site attached to Blagnac Airport.

It was not feasible to apply conventional stealth technology to absorb the incoming waves since this would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, the design applies specially-shaped aluminium“diffraction grating” panels to prevent a building from scattering signals broadcast by the airport’s Instrument Landing System (ILS), which is used during aircraft arrivals in reduced visibility conditions.

The effect is similar to the one that produces the iridescent colours that are visible when holding up a compact disc up to a source of light. A software simulation tool called ELISE determines how these aluminium panels should be applied and confirms their effectiveness in preventing a building from reflecting radio waves.

ELISE is the result of a collaboration of Airbus, EADS Innovation Works and the French ENAC aviation university, with the software tool taking into account such factors as a building’s size, orientation and location relative to the ILS installation.

World First Stealthy Building

Image Credit © Airbus S.A.S. 2013


By using ELISE to determine the diffraction grating panels’ installation, the C65 hangar at Blagnac Airport has become “stealthy” to the ILS signals.  In addition, the ELISE software simulations determined that only the building’s upper 10 metres needed to be covered with the aluminium panels for them to be effective.

“The successful completion of this Airbus facility requirement is an example of our commitment to the development of unique technical solutions for our customers and the aerospace industry,” said EADS chief technical officer Jean Botti.

The technology is being made available through the Airbus ProSky subsidiary, opening opportunities for airports worldwide to build on land that – until now – has remained empty because of potential interference with ILS.

“By designing buildings that do not produce reflections, up to 100 square kilometres of non-buildable airport land worldwide could potentially be transformed into space available for construction, such as terminal buildings, maintenance hangars, or even outside airport boundaries like exhibitions centres, hotels and multi storey car parks,” said Airbus ProSky CEO Paul-Franck Bijou.

By Justin McGar

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