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Flight research center to test shape-changing wing idea

Posted January 20, 2014
Flight research center to test shape-changing wing idea
Conventional wing designs in the form of hinged flaps are in for a re-think. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has noted how hinged flight control surfaces came along shortly after wing-warping technology developed by the Wright Brothers, and still remain the usual method of construction for flight control surfaces. Something different is being proposed, however. At this year’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) SciTech January event in Washington, new wing technology was introduced by an Ann Arbor, Michigan company. Wing “morphing” may emerge as a technology approach. The company behind the technology is FlexSys, which showcased their FlexFoil, a variable geometry airfoil system. The idea is to use seamless, flexible wings which can operate like flaps but without the extra baggage of inefficiency. The system is designed to optimize wing aerodynamics. FlexFoil is a deformable, seamless surface that changes shape for better performance throughout the flight. The company says it uses aerospace-grade materials and actuators.

The foils are just as stiff and strong as a conventional flap; they are optimized to resist deflection under significant aerodynamic loading. They can tolerate over 10,000 pounds of air loads.

FlexFoil has been in development since 2001; the inventor is mechanical engineer Dr. Sridhar Kota, who is also the founder of FlexSys. In starting the company, Dr, Kota, who is a University of Michigan professor of mechanical engineering, sought to develop and commercialize his patented design of a shape-morphing adaptive control surface.

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