According to the researchers, the innovation could provide a significant boost in aircraft production, flight and maintenance efficiency.
The new approach to wing construction, designed by engineers from the NASA and MIT institute, could afford greater flexibility in the design and manufacturing of future aircraft. The new wing design was tested in a NASA wind tunnel.
The Phys.org website reported that instead of requiring separate movable surfaces such as ailerons to control the roll and pitch of the plane, as conventional wings do, the new assembly system makes it possible to deform the whole wing, or parts of it, by incorporating a mix of stiff and flexible components in its structure.
The researchers explained that the result is a wing that is much lighter, and thus much more energy efficient, than those with conventional designs, whether made from metal or composites, because the structure, comprising thousands of tiny triangles of matchstick-like struts, is composed mostly of empty space.
In a related context, the world’s largest aircraft flew over the Mojave Desert in California. Made of carbon composites, this new airplane was produced by Stratolaunch Systems as it entered the private space market.
Stratolaunch was founded by Paul Allen, the late co-founder of Microsoft. The white aircraft took off and remained in the sky for over two hours before landing safely at the Mojave airport.