NASA’s Revolutionary Aircraft Wing Technology Can Change Shape During Flight

NASA/Ken Ulbrich

NASA/Ken Ulbrich

NASA is working on a new aircraft wing surface capable of changing shape during flight, which would lead to quieter and more fuel efficient flights.

Essentially, NASA scientists are replacing a plane’s traditional aluminum flaps with “shape-changing assemblies” capable of forming bendable and twistable surfaces.

NASA said in a statement, “Flight testing will determine whether flexible trailing-edge wing flaps are a viable approach to improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce noise generated during takeoffs and landings.”

The new aircraft wing technology utilizes aircraft flaps designed by Michigan-based FlexSys called ‘FlexFoil’.

FlexFoil is a “variable geometry airfoil,” which can easily be fitted onto existing and new aircraft frames.

Currently, NASA is testing the revolutionary technology at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California using a modified Gulfstream III aircraft.

Thomas Rigney, ACTE Project Manager at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, said, “The first flight went as planned — we validated many key elements of the experimental trailing edges. We expect this technology to make future aircraft lighter, more efficient, and quieter. It also has the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars annually in fuel costs.”

Marshall Smith

Technology, engineering, and design enthusiast.

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