NASA learns from the birds for the next generation in “Smart” dynamic wing design

Imagine the next gen aircraft with wings that move like a birds. The dynamic wing design changes as it flies for optimal gliding. Instead of flaps and fixed wings, the new prototype wings are assembled of tiny mesh-like components that allow it to move dynamically. Like a bird’s wing, they are light-weight, yet strong, thanks to clever engineering.

 

New materials technology, together with a radical new engineering concept, may be the future of aircraft wings. NASA photo.

 

The new wing is more than a radical concept and design. It incorporates totally new smart materials. The prototypes have been assembled laboriously by hand. According to an interview with CNN, NASA research engineer Nick Cramer described it as [1]:

“Something like a condor will lock its joints in while it’s cruising, and then it (adjusts) its wing to a more optimal shape for its cruising, and then when it wants to do a more aggressive maneuver it’ll unlock its shoulder. That’s a similar response to what we’re doing here.”

The wings emulate birds in more than motion. The internal structure, like the hollow light-weight bones of a bird wing, are ultra like due to an entirely new engineered structure and smart materials.

 

NASA concept wings are dynanmic and flexible like bird’s wings. NASA image.

 

Applications for a bird-like wing

Although part of the vision is to have a wing design that can be “assembled in orbit,” the new design would also see signicant cost and infrastructure investment savings over current wing manufacturing.

Current wing technology is cumbersome and heavy. Especially at the manufacturing stage, large jet liners such as the Airbus A380 have wings so massive that the costs are staggering at assembly. The molds are gigantic. The prototype design and manufacturing is very intense and extraordinarily expensive — which is why many large jets today haven’t changed much from the 1970s.

The reason commercial aircraft design remains “traditional

The new wing technology is a mesh technology, which, in theory — especially with robot manufacturing — could be created in smaller spaces, and eliminates the current model in aircraft manufacturing, which requires a complex infrastructure. It would also likely be lighter weight, more efficient, and more flexible. Operation of aircraft would also likely be more economical, as the range of motion and application could significantly save fuel.

Of course this would be a complete pardigm shift, as new control systems (for the aircraft) and manufacturing processings would be required. Adapting the light weight wings to existing aircraft would involve new control systems, and a radical change in manufacturing processes. While it is an appealing engineering concept, significant research and money are required to commercialize the wings.

Manufacturing the new wings

The new wings are made of injected fiber reinforced polyetherimide into small molds that create smaller components, which, when commercialized, can be assembled robotically. Packing and shipping components is logistically far easier than transporting, for example, rigid wings used on current aircraft assembly.


NOTES

[1] New plane wing moves like a bird’s>>

Did you miss this?

Other Popular Stories

  • Aerospace in Ontario: More than 200 aerospace companies, 21,000 skilled employees and half of the top 25 global firms
  • Metal Conducts Electricity without Heating
  • Canadian company to provide modular housing for refugees in Sweden
  • Crude Oil Prices Uncertain as OPEC Meets to Discuss Supply
  • Magna International acquires German transmission giant
  • Little support in auto industry for Canada/Korea free trade deal
  • Electric bush plane: combined project of Zenair and Solar Ship combines rugged short landings with green technology
  • Oil production should grow 33 per cent in Canada by 2030, despite lower oilsands spending
  • Samsung wind farm breaks ground in SW Ontario
  • Agreement between western provinces smooths way for pipelines
  • Ford GT supercar in production at Markham's Multimatic plant
  • Saudi solar-powered desalination plant will be world's largest
  • Davie shipyard delivers "most complex" vessel ever built in NA
  • Canadian Governement should do more to have U.S. tarriffs removed say ministers in both Ontario and Quebec
  • Aerospace industry trade war? $2 billion at stake as Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister reviews Boeing sole sourcing
  • Building code change could help drain water heat recovery manufacturers
  • Bombardier workers unite with company management in support of "battle" against U.S. based aerospace giant Boeing Co.
  • Overheated bearings, gearboxes among causes of wind turbine fires
  • Solar-powered nanoheaters offer solution for off-grid medical sterilization
  • Exports, innovation key to small business success: CIBC
Scroll to Top