A new and experimental shape changing wing design, known as the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE), recently successfully passed a series of flight tests by NASA research teams. The innovative flight control surfaces will offer significant improvements over conventional flaps used on existing aircraft.
The flight tests have been conducted by a team at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, which flew 22 research flights over the past six months. The new wind design 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 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.”
This new ACTE technology can be retrofitted to existing airplane wings allowing for improved efficiencies for aircraft currently in operation today. Additionally, the design can be incorporated into entirely new airframes. Either way this technology should allow “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,” according to NASA.
“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.”
During the tests the 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.
Additional information this program for next generation aircraft can be found online at: http://www.nasa.gov/subject/7565/future-aircraft/