The Latest Innovations in Aircraft Design
If you’ve traveled in an airplane recently, you probably didn’t notice anything different from the last time you flew (aside from the seats maybe seeming smaller). But the field of aviation is always changing, and there are a number of exciting developments happening in aircraft design.
Flexible Aircraft Wings
While you probably won’t see flexible aircraft wings on your next flight, this is a new innovation on the horizon. NASA has been working on the technology and has successfully conducted dozens of test flights already. The technology would allow aircraft wings to rotate -2 degrees one way and up to 30 degrees the other way. The advance aims to improve fuel efficiency, with current estimates suggesting a 12% decrease in the amount of fuel consumed. The new wings would also reduce the amount of drag, making the newer aircraft slightly quieter for those on the ground.
New De-Icing Coatings
Dealing with ice is a critical part of aircraft maintenance. If no action is taken, ice can easily build up on the wings. This causes the craft to become heavier and unbalanced, and changes the aerodynamics of the structure.
Current de-icing liquids are applied on the ground between flights to remove ice build-ups. But newer anti-ice gel coatings are being developed to prevent the ice from adhering to the surface of plane in the first place. These anti-icing coatings are more environmentally friendly than common de-icers, and could be a more permanent coating solution that would require fewer treatments over time.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
UAVs, or drones, have been around for a while now, but the technology surrounding them continues to get more advanced. Remote-controlled aircraft don’t have the same shock and awe factor they once did, but new design concepts are certainly worthy of attention.
BAE Systems has been working with students at Cranfield University to design an aircraft that can switch between fixed-wing flight and rotary-wing flight. Imagine an airplane that can function as a helicopter: two completely different structures that are both capable of flight. Combining the two structures offers unmatched flexibility when it comes to take-off, landing, and in-air maneuvering.
The current application seems to be military-based, but it will be interesting to see how this concept will develop over time and how it will change the field of aerospace.
More on the Horizon
This is all just a sampling of the research and development going on in aircraft design and maintenance. With an industry that has applications ranging from consumer travel, to logistics, to military, there are many opportunities for advancement in the aerospace sector.
As a tube bending service provider for this industry, Stam, Inc. looks forward to seeing where the next wave of modernization will lead.