(API) and joint-venture partner FlexSys are working with an undisclosed customer to retrofit an aircraft with the first commercial morphing wing.
The wing-morphing “flexfoil” demonstrator illustrated how the airfoil shape could change in flight to boost performance over a wide range of angles of attack, indicated airspeeds and Mach levels. The scale model showed how wing morphing could provide integrated roll control, high lift, cruise optimization, load alleviation and even deicing functions.
The new approach to variable-camber wings builds on a FlexSys-developed compliant composite structure that eliminates the mechanical complexity of previous shape-adaptive surfaces. The wing incorporates a one-piece, jointless mechanism that is strong and flexible, in which every section of the structure contributes equally to the shape-morphing while all components share the loads. Each section therefore sees only a small elastic strain with low stress, and the structure can undergo large deformations with high-fatigue life and low maintenance.
What sort of improvements could one expect from a morphing wing on an airliner? Would potential fuel savings be sufficiently dramatic to warrant the investment in developing this technology for airliners? What other benefits would follow - eg shorter take off runs (very useful for hot and high airports / airports with short runways like LCY)?
Looking at the video of the demonstration wing actually morphing, it looks like ailerons and flaps could be dispensed with if this system works. Would be a cost saver, wouldn't it?
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