NASA researchers, working with the Air Force Research Laboratory and FlexSys of Ann Arbor, MI, successfully completed initial flight tests of a new morphing wing technology that has the potential to save millions of dollars annually in fuel costs, reduce airframe weight, and decrease aircraft noise during takeoffs and landings. The experimental Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) flight control surfaces offer significant improvements over conventional flaps used on existing aircraft.
ACTE technology, which can be retrofitted to existing airplane wings or integrated into entirely new airframes, enables engineers to reduce wing structural weight and to aerodynamically tailor the wings to promote improved fuel economy and more efficient operations while also reducing environmental and noise impacts.
The test aircraft was flown with its experimental control surfaces at flap angles ranging from -2 degrees to 30 degrees. Although the flaps were designed to morph throughout the entire range of motion, each test was conducted at a single fixed setting in order to collect incremental data with a minimum of risk.