NASA Tests Shape-shifting Airplane

Posted: Apr 29 2015, 9:09am CDT | by , in News | Cars & Vehicles


NASA tests Shape-shifting Airplane

NASA has successfully tested an airplane equipped with Shape-Changing Wings.

NASA researchers in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and FlexSys Inc. successfully completed initial flight tests of a new morphing wing technology that has the potential to save millions of dollars annually in fuel costs, reduce airframe weight and decrease aircraft noise during takeoffs and landings.

“Armstrong’s work with Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) is a great example of how NASA works with our government and industry partners to develop innovative technologies that make big leaps in efficiency and environmental performance,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “This is consistent with the agency’s goal to support the nation’s leadership in the aviation sector.”

In 2009, AFRL and NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project agreed to equip a Gulfstream III jet with ACTE flaps designed and built by FlexSys, incorporating its proprietary technology.

ACTE technology, which can be retrofitted to existing airplane wings or integrated into entirely new airframes, enables engineers to reduce wing structural weight and to aerodynamically tailor the wings to promote improved fuel economy and more efficient operations while also reducing environmental and noise impacts.

"The completion of this flight test campaign at Armstrong is a big step for NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project," said ERA project manager Fay Collier. "This is the first of eight large-scale integrated technology demonstrations ERA is finishing up this year that are designed to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment."

Flight testing was key to proving the concept’s airworthiness. The test aircraft was flown with its experimental control surfaces at flap angles ranging from -2 degrees up to 30 degrees. Although the flexible ACTE flaps were designed to morph throughout the entire range of motion, each test was conducted at a single fixed setting in order to collect incremental data with a minimum of risk.

“We are thrilled to have accomplished all of our flight test goals without encountering any significant technical issues,” said AFRL Program Manager Pete Flick, from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. “These flights cap 17 years of technology maturation, beginning with AFRL’s initial Phase 1 SBIR contract with FlexSys, and the technology now is ready to dramatically improve aircraft efficiency for the Air Force and the commercial aviation industry.”

More details about the NASA next generation aircraft can be found on this NASA page.

You May Like


The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
Luigi can be contacted directly at




Leave a Comment

Share this Story

Follow Us
Follow I4U News on Twitter
Follow I4U News on Facebook

You Also Like


Read the Latest from I4U News