NASA puts new flexible wing through its paces

The Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge wing system on its way to be tested over the Mojave desert
NASA/Ken Ulbrich

Back in February we previewed a new flexible aircraft wing system that does away with traditional flaps for increased aerodynamic efficiency.

Now the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge wing has been retrofitted to a Gulfstream G-III and flight-tested by NASA and given top marks.

"We're thrilled this first flight has been a major success and we're hopeful that further testing will bear out our theories for the potential benefits for this technology," said Pete Flick, Air Force Research Laboratory program manager.

The new system seamlessly integrates the trailing edge and the main part of the wing as shown in the video above. It was invented by Dr Sridhar Kota, founder of the company by FlexSys, and has been on the drawing board for 20 years, although its current form dates from 2006.

FlexSys says the new design could deliver fuel savings of up to 12% by reducing drag caused by traditional flap design.

The FlexSys flap deflects from -9.5 to +40 degrees at rates up to 30 degrees/second for active load control.

Kota, who is also a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, says there are many more applications for the technology.

It "can be applied to all kinds of surfaces moving through a fluid medium such as aeroplane wings, engine inlets, helicopter rotors, and wind turbines, as well as specialised components for automobiles, boats, and submarines".

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