NASA has successfully applied a new technology in flight that allows aircraft to fold their wings to different angles while in the air.
The recent flight series, which took place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, was part of the Spanwise Adaptive Wing project (SAW).
The SAW project, which aims to validate the use of a cutting-edge, lightweight material, was designed to test if the unit would to be able to fold the outer portions of aircraft wings and their control surfaces to optimal angles in flight.
SAW co-principal investigator, Othmane Benafan, explained: “We wanted to see: can we move wings in flight, can we control them to any position we want to get aerodynamic benefits out of them, and could we do it with this new technology.”
“Folding wings has been done in the past, but we wanted to prove the feasibility of doing this using shape memory alloy technology, which is compact, lightweight, and can be positioned in convenient places on the aircraft.”
SAW is a joint effort between Armstrong, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, or GRC, Langley Research Center in Virginia, Boeing Research & Technology in St. Louis and Seattle, and Area-I Inc.
Jim Mabe, technical fellow with Boeing Research and Technology, added: “The performance of this new alloy that we developed between NASA and Boeing really showed outstanding performance. From the time we started initial testing here at Boeing, up to the flight tests, the material behaved consistently stable, and showed a superior performance to previous materials.”
A video of the test flight can be found below.