WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- Researchers with NASA recently tested an airplane wing that can change shape. Engineers at the space agency say the new morphing wing technology could save millions of gallons in fuel.
The newly completed tests confirm the wing's economic and aerodynamic benefits, but more importantly, prove that it is safe and ready for commercial use.
The technology -- called Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) -- is essentially a new and improved wing flap, offering pilots more control over the shape of a wing's surface. These controls can be manipulated to minimize wing structural weight and create optimal aerodynamics given varying flying conditions.
When used properly, researchers say the wing shape controls will improve a plane's fuel economy and reduce the plane's environmental and noise impacts.
Engineers from NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) partnered with a small aeronautics firm called FlexSys to develop the new technology, which can be retrofitted to old wings or incorporated into new ones.
"We are thrilled to have accomplished all of our flight test goals without encountering any significant technical issues," Pete Flick, AFRL project manager and an aerospace engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, said in a press release.
"These flights cap 17 years of technology maturation, beginning with AFRL's initial Phase 1 SBIR contract with FlexSys," Flick added, "and the technology now is ready to dramatically improve aircraft efficiency for the Air Force and the commercial aviation industry."