A new morphing wing architecture could greatly simplify the manufacturing process and reduce fuel consumption of aircraft by improving the wing’s aerodynamics, as well as improving its agility. The wing consists of a system of tiny, lightweight subunits that could be assembled by a team of small, specialized robots, and ultimately could be used to build the entire airframe. The wing would be covered by a “skin” made of overlapping pieces that might resemble scales or feathers.
The entire shape of the wing can be changed, and twisted uniformly along its length, by activating two small motors that apply a twisting pressure to each wingtip. The tiny, lightweight structural pieces can be assembled into a virtually infinite variety of shapes. The individual pieces are strong and stiff, but the exact choice of the dimensions and materials used for the pieces, and the geometry of how they are assembled, allow for a precise tuning of the flexibility of the final shape.