NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory have started testing what they believe will begin new era of airplane wing design. The idea is to replace moving objects with shape-changing assemblies allowing wings to bend and twist to maneuver through the air at different speeds.
The design of the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) is a lot more complicated than the traditional pivoting flaps one can see on wings of modern aeroplanes. But, the possible outcome in terms of benefits far outweigh those issues.
The new shape-shifting wings not only promise improved aerodynamics which in turn means better fuel efficiency, but they’re also lighter than their predecessors. One of the greatest benefits could be allowing for a larger fuel tank in the wing. That also means improved operational range of many aircraft.
The adjustable flight surfaces on the shape-shifting wings will also serve greatly to reduce the tremendous amount of noise generated as a plane takes off and lands with its flaps extended.