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NASA Tests Revolutionary Shapeshifting Wing Flap Design For Nextgen Aircraft

For the first time, NASA has flight tested a revolutionary new wing flap that can change shape in order to reduce noise and improve the aerodynamic and fuel efficiency of aircraft.

In a joint project with the U.S. Air Force, the space agency conducted the test of the new wing flaps as part of the green aviation project at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, according to Russia Today. The test was carried out on a modified Gulfstream III business aircraft, which had both of its 19-foot-long conventional aluminum flaps replaced. The new wing flaps form continuous, flexible surfaces, which are gapless, designed to eliminate a major source of airframe noise generation.

As Gizmag notes, FlexFoil is a shape-changing assembly that can be modified in flight to produce bendable and twistable aerofoil surfaces. FlexFoil can therefore act like a wing flap, while still providing an unbroken wing surface, reducing drag and noise. Importantly, the system is designed not only for newly constructed aircraft, but also to retrofit in the place of existing traditional wing flaps.

“FlexSys developed a variable geometry airfoil system called FlexFoil that can be retrofitted to existing airplane wings or integrated into brand new airframes,” NASA stated.

While NASA has recently tested new propulsion systems, as the Inquisitr has previously reported, the wing flaps represent a potential major development for air travel. NASA says that work continues on developing other commercial applications for FlexFoil, noting that they hope engineers will be able to utilize the technology to tailor more efficient, lighter wings.

Fay Collier, ERA project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, noted that the flight test is one of eight large-scale technology demonstrations intended to showcase technological improvements in areas of drag, weight, noise, fuel, and emissions reductions.

“This past summer researchers replaced an airplane’s conventional aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies that form seamless bendable and twistable surfaces. Flight testing will determine whether flexible trailing-edge wing flaps are a viable approach to improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce noise generated during takeoffs and landings,” NASA noted in a press release.

During the first test, the experimental flaps were locked in a single position. Over the course of the next several months, subsequent flight tests will be used by NASA to examine different settings for the FlexFoil wing flaps.

[Image: NASA via RT]