Adaptable wing tested by AFRL

Can special ‘skin’ make an unflappable new Air Force drone? – link

Source: C4ISR

The Air Force Research Laboratory-developed Variable Camber Compliant Wing successfully completed a series of flight experiments in September and October of 2019. This unique wing concept changes shape to improve aerodynamic performance and adapt itself to various flight conditions and missions. (Air Force)

Article Headlines

  • Called the Variable Camber Compliant Wing, the new form features a “continuous skin” membrane, which can bend and warp to alter wing shape to the same effect as flaps in conventional aircraft
  • What is different is that the smooth, consistent plastic surface allows for quieter, more aerodynamic flight. It also, by reducing the need for distinct parts and harsh edges, is a lighter mechanism than a traditional flapped wing
  • Early estimates show [Variable Camber Compliant Wing] technology saving aircraft fuel consumption by 10 percent 
  • The flight demonstrations took place in fall 2019, with an 8 ft. wing mounted on a commercial off-the-shelf drone. The promise is that such flapless wings could increase both fuel efficiency and control for long-range flights. If the wing continues to perform in tests, it could lead to a change in aircraft design, ushering in a whole unflappable era of flight

Overview & Comments

  • Two other developments worth noting in the category of airframe / propulsion advancements are BAE’s MAGMA and MIT’s Ionic Wind demonstrator
  • BAE’s MAGMA demoed aircraft maneuverability without control surfaces by supersonically blown air
  • MIT Demonstrated in November 2018 a first ever powered flight by Ionic Wind with a potential gamechanger in the long run with a cleaner more efficient power source

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