Shapeshifting wing passes its latest NASA test

NASA and the US Air Force Research Laboratory have announced another successful flight of a plane with a new, flexible wing, bring it closer to commercial operation.

The system, called an adaptive trailing edge, is the brainchild of US company FlexSys, which claims the technology could deliver fuel savings of up to 12%.

As Cosmos reported when it was first announced:

The innovation addresses a flaw in previous wing design that decreases aerodynamic efficiency – the join where the main wing meets the trailing flaps. The new system, invented in 2006 by FlexSys founder Dr Sridhar Kota, seamlessly integrates the trailing edge and the main part of the wing (above). The technology can be retrofitted into existing wings.–the kind that could change how all future fixed-wing aircraft fly.

In the test, the wing was added to the rear edge of a Gulfstream III jet’s wings. The system is made from a bendy material, although the company has not released details..

NASA flew the plane 22 times, with flaps fixed in position for each flight, ranging from 1 degree downward to 30 degrees upward. NASA has at least seven more tests planned, during which the the wing angles will be changed during flight.

The video above is of earlier tests late last year.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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