[Avionics Today 11-7-2014] NASA believes its current ongoing green aviation project is one step closer to developing technology that could make future airliners quieter and more fuel efficient. The agency completed a successful flight test of a wing surface that can "change shape in flight."
The Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) project is a joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) using flaps designed by FlexSys Inc. The variable geometry airfoil system developed by FlexSys, FlexFoil, can be retrofitted to existing aircraft wings or integrated into new airframes. FlexFoil is a replacement for conventional aircraft aluminum flaps, providing advanced shape-changing assemblies that form seamless bendable and twistable surfaces.
Flight testing is being conducted to determine whether these flexible trailing edge wing flaps are a "viable approach to improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce noise generated during takeoffs and landings," NASA said.
"The first flight went as planned — we validated many key elements of the experimental trailing edges," said Thomas Rigney, ACTE project manager at Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. "We expect this technology to make future aircraft lighter, more efficient, and quieter. It also has the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars annually in fuel costs."