Air travelers of the future could have quieter, greener and more fuel-efficient airliners because of NASA research efforts that are moving into further development and testing.
The Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project, which is part of the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Integrated Systems Research Program, was created in 2009 to explore aircraft concepts and technologies that will reduce the impact of aviation on the environment over the next 30 years.
During the first phase of ERA, engineers assessed dozens of broad areas of environmentally friendly aircraft technologies and then matured the most promising ones to the point that they can be tested together in a real world environment. Those experiments included nonstick coatings for low-drag wing designs, laboratory testing of a new composite manufacturing technique, advanced engine testing, and test flights of a remotely piloted hybrid wing body prototype.
NASA has chosen eight large-scale integrated technology demonstrations to advance ERA research. The demonstrations are designed to further the project's goals of simultaneous reduction in the amount of fuel used, the level of noise and the emissions produced by tomorrow's commercial transport planes.
Researchers will focus on five areas: aircraft drag reduction through innovative flow control concepts; weight reduction from advanced composite materials; fuel and noise reduction from advanced engines; emissions reductions from improved engine combustors; and fuel consumption and community noise reduction through innovative airframe and engine integration designs.