Home Technology NASA wants to fold airplane wings while they’re flying

NASA wants to fold airplane wings while they’re flying

NASA is trying to create foldable wing aircraft after being inspired from the hawk. When a hawk folds its wings, it plummets to the earth in a controlled
high-speed dive. Not exactly the kind of scenario we’d imagine being
ideal for modern aircraft. But in flight wing folding can have
advantages such as increasing the efficiency, capabilities of the aircraft and NASA wants to make it happen.
NASA calls the design Spanwise Adaptive Wing (SAW). Until now,
articulating wings on aircraft was done to optimise parking area and to
make them fit into smaller hangars. Having articulating wings also
helped in easier movement between the airport infrastructure.

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But NASA wants to use smaller and adjustable wing ends along with more
precise wing articulation and control capable of changing position
dynamically to create the perfect balance between lift and yaw control
as needed during different flight conditions.
One use of this concept will be in supersonic aircraft. When the
aircraft are flying at very high speeds, they create a lot of lift but
consequently, have lesser yaw control. By folding the ends of the wings
up or down, stability and yaw control will be enhanced, creating more vertical surface to augment the rear tailfin. 
But this will not happen
at the expense of critical lift during the difficult takeoff and landing
because the wings are still capable of straightening to add the lift
surface to flight.

NASA’s Matt Moholt said on the concept, “We
are revisiting folding-wing aircraft. Because new technologies that did
not exist in the 1960s allow actuation to be put in tighter wings, in
smaller volumes. This allows a much thinner wing and a thinner portion
of the wing to become articulable. Namely the tips of wings, which are
normally rigidly fixed.”

This concept is now a reality courtesy advancements in the
actuators required to move the wings, which have been changed from the
more outdated and heavy hydraulic systems to more efficient and lighter
electric ones.
Source: NASA 


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