NASA designs new plane wing to bend like a bird in flight

 NASA has developed a plane wing that apes the action of a bird during flight.

Traditional plane wings are rigid but Nasa has helped develop a wing than bends like a bird's in flight

Traditional plane wings are rigid but Nasa has helped develop a wing than bends like a bird's in flight Image by francois Schnell / CC BY 2.0

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration agency believes their new design, which allows the wing to change shape while flying, will save millions of dollars in fuel costs while also significantly decreasing noise levels at take-offs and during landings.

The project was developed by NASA in conjunction with Air Force Research Laboratory and private tech firm FlexSys. The wing is a seamless flexible edge that is able to move up or down with much greater ease than traditional hinged flaps.

NASA said they tested the model for six months by using the experimental control surfaces on an aircraft. It changes angles to bend from -2 degrees to 30 degrees.

The BBC reports that the flexible wing edge went through a full range of positions while in flight which made the flight more akin to that of a bird. The seamless movement helped smoother airflow which reduced friction meaning there was less fuel consumed.

FlexSys claims that its smart materials technology could increase fuel efficiency by somewhere between 5% to 12% while reducing plane noise levels by as much as 40%.

The latest research on the technology took place above Nasa’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

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