NASA has successfully fight tested a revolutionary shape-changing aircraft flap.
The new technology is expected to have far-reaching effects on future aviation
This technological marvel has the potential to reduce noise, weight, drag emissions and improve aerodynamic and fuel efficiency of an aircraft. All this translates into saving hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel costs each year.
On traditional airplanes, gaps appear between the edge and sides of the flaps when the flaps are lowered. But these new shape-changing flaps have no gaps; this improved aerodynamic efficiency can greatly reduce the noise generated during takeoffs and landings.
In a joint project with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), NASA engineers replaced an airplane’s conventional aluminum flaps with advanced shape-changing flaps that form seamless, flexible surfaces. The flaps have been designed and built by FlexSys, Inc., of Ann Arbor, Michigan with AFRL funding.
FlexSys developed a variable geometry airfoil system called FlexFoil that can be retrofitted to existing airplane wings or integrated into new airframes.