NASA Tests New Design Of Flexible Aircraft Wings
NASA is now getting closer to achieve its Green Aviation Project goals that include creating technology and aircraft such that it reduces the impact of aviation on the environment during the next 30 years.
NASA managed to stir change in the most common feature of an airplane – its wings. Replacing the same old aluminum flaps, are these advanced, shape altering assemblies which can form flexible and twistable flaps.
How much are they viable? Only flight testing can tell whether they will improve the aerodynamic efficiency or reduce noise of take-offs and landings.
This joint project between NASA and U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is called the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE). The flaps used for the project were designed and created by FlexSys, Inc. in Michigan.
AFRL has been funding FlexSys through its Small Business Innovative Research program, which led FlexSys to develop this flexible airfoil system called FlexFoil which can be fitted to existing airplane wings or integrated into totally new airframes.
FlexSys CEO, Sridhar Kota, is looking forward to see the testing with modified Gulfstream III. This will then confirm by what margin the design is creating an impact. If it goes as expected, this design is bound to set free numerous future applications and commercialization.
“This flight test is one of the NASA Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) Project’s eight large-scale integrated technology demonstrations to show design improvements in drag, weight, noise, emission and fuel reductions,” said Fay Collier, ERA project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
During ACTE’s initial flight in California, control surfaces of the flaps were specified and locked at that setting for the experiment. It went “as expected”. Varying flap settings will then be tested on different flights to understand the capability of the wings in a real flight environment.
“We have progressed from an innovative idea and matured the concept through multiple designs and wind tunnel tests, to a final demonstration that should prove to the aerospace industry that this technology is ready to dramatically improve aircraft efficiency,” said AFRL Program Manager Pete Flick, from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
ACTE technology , if successful, will allow a lot of efficiency in fuel and flight alike. Moreover, reduced noise will create a positive impact on the environment.
“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.”