NASA engineers recently started working in association with Area-I and Boeing on a project called Spanwise Adaptive Wings (SAW). The main objective of this project is to create wings that can be folded in perpendicular direction of the foil length. While, traditionally, wings have always been designed in an unflappable shape, the team of engineers working at NASA believe that articulated wings will grant pilots with better control over the aircraft along with better energy efficiency that cannot be achieved with other technologies for now. In order to build these SAW, the team plans to use actuators that will give the outermost SAW wing a distinct mechanism that can easily bend up to 75 degrees.
Matt Moholt, the principal investigator of SAW explains,”Ideally, we would be able to take that portion of the wing, and articulate it up or down to the optimal flight condition that you’re in. So let’s say you’re a condition that requires a climb-out. The optimal position might be up 15 degrees or down 15 degrees, and you would be able to get that.” An aircraft with actuated wings, PTERA (Prototype-technology Evaluation and Research Aircraft) will be deployed by Spring 2017, however, if you notice closely SAW is not a new concept.
Moholt explains that the concept of foldable wing aircrafts has been in play since the mid of twentieth century, but the technology wasn’t there yet. Moholt further adds, “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. Now you can articulate a very small, thin airfoil, whereas before the actuator technology didn’t exist.” The advanced stage of this project will begin only when PTERA will pass its initial tests.
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