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Shape-Changing Wing Flap Reduces Drag and Noise

A milestone for the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) project at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center occurred with the delivery of two revolutionary experimental flaps designed and built by FlexSys of Ann Arbor, MI, for installation on the Gulfstream G-III Aerodynamics Research Test Bed aircraft. Researchers are replacing the airplane’s 19-foot-long aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies that form continuous bendable surfaces.

Technicians have begun scanning the G-III with a special laser system to create a computer-generated 3D model of the airplane. The flap assemblies will also be scanned so that project engineers can conduct virtual fit checks before actually installing the new flaps. This will reduce the risk of damaging either the airplane or its new control surfaces.

The ACTE experimental flight research project is a joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to design aircraft technology that will reduce drag, wing weight, and aircraft noise. The effort is part of NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project that explores technologies to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment.

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