Did you know that every time you fly, NASA is flying with you?

What? Isn’t NASA just concerned about space explorations? Well, it’s good news for you and everyone else traveling by air. NASA is on top of things developing ways to make the airlines safer and more efficient. How?

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NASA-Innovations To Make Air Travel Safer
Some examples:

  • Those little “winglets” that point up from the tips of the aircraft wing
  • Those little runway grooves that channel away standing water

Those were all developed by NASA, the country’s space agency. And for all you know, you may have been enjoying the benefits of NASA technology in you recent air travel. It could have been in the special steel shims or other inconspicuous component or part and you would not have known it.

NASA Takes On Safe Air Travel Seriously
NASA – that’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is America’s government agency given the responsibility not just for research on aeronautics and aerospace but for the civilian space programs as well. And the most recent exciting innovation NASA has been working on is a revolutionary new design of an airplane wing where the moving parts are replaced with shape-changing assemblies that allow wings to twist and bend to maneuver the aircraft through the air.

US And Air Force Research Laboratory Combined Research
This new technology was revealed to the public in the early part of the year and last month, the Research Laboratory of the US Air Force and NASA had successfully conducted the initial testing of avant-garde aircraft flap that changes shape. This new technological marvel is expected to reduce noise and improve the aircraft’s fuel efficiency and aerodynamics. The new technology was part of the green aviation project known as the ACTE – Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge project – a combined research of the Research Laboratory of the US Air Force and NASA.

NASA Finally Tests Its Shape-Shifting Airplane Wings
NASA recently conducted tests on the new revolutionary shape-shifting wings for airliners.

ACTE Means Shape-Shifting Wings:
The space agency describes ACTE in three words:

  • Shape
  • Shifting
  • Wings

NASA expects this new technology to radically change the way commercial aircraft look but the agency is even more excited about the potential savings it will provide the aviation industry.  This technology will save hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel costs.

New Aircraft Flaps That Change Shape
NASA and AFRL commissioned a company called FlexSys, Inc. to build the new flaps that change shape in response to weather and other flight conditions. Engineering- and manufacturing-wise, the new flap design is definitely more complicated than the traditional flaps that pivot usually found in every modern plane’s wings. But the potential benefits certainly far outweigh those complex issues.

The NASA new flaps take on a more complicated engineering and manufacturing process.

Benefits: Aerodynamics And Fuel Efficiency
NASA couldn’t be more explicit in highlighting the obvious benefits – improved aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. But the new flaps are also much lighter than their predecessors and that gave space for a larger fuel tank in the wing. This greatly enhances the aircraft’s operational range without a doubt.

The new shape-shifting wings are made from super flexible and very strong composite materials which allow the wings to change shape without the hinges. Normally, you’d look out the window of the aircraft and you’d see the hinged metal flaps on the rear edge of the wing. These new flaps will have no hinges and they can change shape.

Reducing Environmental Impact
The adjustable flight surfaces on the new revolutionary flaps curve and blend perfectly into the rest of the aircraft structure which will subsequently greatly lessen the tremendous amount of noise generated when the plane takes off and lands with extended flaps. This reduction in noise will help reduce an airport’s environmental impact.

Perfecting The New Technology To Allow Retrofitting Onto Existing Aircrafts
NASA and AFRL hope to perfect the new technology flaps such that they can be retrofitted onto the existing aircraft and not just the newly manufactured aircraft, allowing upgrade for entire fleets. With all aircraft retrofitted with the new shape-shifting wings, airports will become quieter for their neighbors.

For the pilots, this new technology means they could fly through a strong gust and the wings will accordingly make adjustments so that the passengers won’t feel the impact of the gust.

Do you know of other NASA-innovated features in commercial aircraft?

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2 thoughts on “New Shape-Shifting Flaps Developed By NASA For Commercial Aircraft”

  1. I think frequent flyers should feel safer and more secure that the leading aeronautics people are contributing to the design of commercial airlines. Some innovation as simple as flaps that help prevent ice build up on the wings is vitally important for the safety of countless lives. I wonder what other wonderful invention lay in the near future of commercial aviation. I expect to see some exciting technology appear in the near future.

  2. I would like to know why these little grooves that are built into airplane runways aren’t also built into the highways throughout America. The black ice problem is rampant, especially during one of the coldest winters on record. Is it too expensive for cities to afford? The way I surmise it, if there is no water remnants on the road, there isn’t any water to freeze on top of the asphalt.

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