NASA tests revolutionary shape changing aircraft flap for the first time

NASA tests revolutionary shape changing aircraft flap for the first time

Photo Credits: NASA


ACTE technology is expected to have far-reaching effects on future aviation

Thanks to its green aviation project, NASA is getting closer to developing technology which is going to make future airliners quieter and more fuel-efficient with the successful flight test of a wing surface that can change shape in flight. During the summer of this year, the researchers replaced an airplane’s conventional aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies which are known to form seamless bendable and twistable surfaces. So the flight testing is going to conclude whether flexible trailing-edge wing flaps are a viable approach to improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce noise generated during takeoffs and landings.

The Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) task is a joint exertion in the middle of NASA and the U.s. Flying corps Research Laboratory (AFRL), utilizing folds composed and assembled by Flexsys, Inc., of Ann Arbor, Michigan. With AFRL financing through the Air Force’s Small Business Innovative Research program, Flexsys created a variable geometry airfoil framework called Flexfoil that can be retrofitted to existing plane wings or coordinated into just out of the plastic new airframes.

Flexfoil’s creator, Flexsys organizer and Chief Executive Officer Sridhar Kota trusts testing with the changed Gulfstream III will affirm the plan’s flight value and open ways to future applications and commercialization. ACTE is, no doubt flown at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.

Fay Collier, ERA project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, says “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.”

The experimental control surfaces were locked at a specified setting during the initial ACTE flight. Variety of data, which will demonstrate the capability of the flexible wings to withstand a real flight environment, will be collected through the employment of different flap setting. The flaps can be retrofitted to go with the existing airplane wings or integrated into new airframes.

AFRL Program Manager Pete Flick said “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.”

This ACTE technology is going to have far-reaching effects on future aviation. The introduction of advanced lightweight materials into the production is going to reduce wing structural weight. This is ultimately going to give engineers the ability to aerodynamically tailor the wings to promote improved fuel economy and more efficient operations, while reducing environmental impacts. In this regard, Thomas Rigney, ACTE Project Manager at Armstrong, says “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.”

source: nasa

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