Piaggio has filed a patent for an active aerodynamic device using winglets that rotate up or down to affect rotational torque. The patent, published today with the World Intelletual Property Office but initially filed in Italy in late 2018, uses a last-generation MP3 three-wheeled scooter in its illustrations, but the principles behind that patent can apply just as well on a two-wheeled motorcycle.
It’s public knowledge that Piaggio has been working on an active aerodynamic system, though the choice to use the MP3 in the patent illustrations is a bit surprising. The patent was filed at around the same time the Aprilia RS660 concept debuted at the 2018 EICMA show, and the sportbike was said to incorporate an active aero system. Piaggio didn’t provide much detail about the how the “Aprilia Active Aerodynamics” or “A3” system worked, but the patent does not appear to be related.
The MP3 in the diagrams use a pair of C-shaped winglets on the front fairing, similar to the winglets used on the Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP bikes. The top plane of the winglets, however, is movable, able to rotate upward or downward like the flaps on the trailing edge of an airplane’s wings.
These active elements are electronically controlled, with electric motors moving each winglet independently. A onboard computer processes the bike’s speed and lean angle, and adjust the winglets in response the amount of steering torque applied by the rider.
When one wing is in an upward position and the opposite wing is pointing downward, the aerodynamic forces a rolling torque towards the side going up. The patent claims this helps for quicker rolling into or out of corners, with a noticeable effect at speeds higher than 50 kph (31 mph). The winglets can also move in the same direction, going upward to produce more downforce on the front wheel, or both going downward to lighten the load.
This adjustability provides an advantage over static aerodynamic systems that may provide benefits in some situations but may be a hindrance in others.
As with most patents, there’s no indication on if we’ll ever see the concepts put into use. If Piaggio does proceed with this active aerodynamic system, it’s likely we’ll see it applied to other brands under the company’s umbrella such as Aprilia.