Shape-shifting wings key to more efficient flight

Morphing composites, NASA believes, are essential for building ‘green’ planes of the future.

Using advanced carbon fibre composite building blocks arranged in a lattice, engineers from the NASA Mission Adaptive Digital Composite Aerostructure Technologies (MADCAT) team and students from institutions including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could induce the wing to bend and twist, morphing in response to actuators in the fuselage.

A test aircraft was successfully flown in May this year at a test airfield in California.

The goal is to cut drag created by rigid control surfaces such as elevators, ailerons and rudders. As morphing wings do away with these surfaces, they are more fuel-efficient.

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