Why NASA thinks this old school wing design could be the future of flight

Contributed by
Apr 5, 2016, 12:44 PM EDT

Many early aircraft utilized a truss in the wings to provide extra support (and some small planes still use them), though many modern designs have moved to different wing concepts. Turns out, NASA thinks circling back to that early discovery could be the future of flight.

The space agency has teamed up with Boeing to design a longer, thinner and lighter wing. The idea is very different from traditional wings, and would require the truss to brace the longer wing. The hope is that the lighter weight, lower-drag truss-braced wing will reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions by more than 50 percent when compared to current transport aircraft designs. The new design would be 4-8 percent more efficient when compared to advanced technology conventional configurations with unbraced wings. Meaning this could be the best option, overall, if the tests pan out.

Put simply, the model NASA is testing has a wingspan 50 percent greater than a comparable craft with existing wing technology. Yeah, it looks a little strange, but it could hold the Holy Grail in regard to fuel efficiency. Better fuel efficiency means longer trips and less carbon emissions overall. Researchers are now using wind tunnel tests and aerodynamic computer modeling to fine tune the design. It’s all part of an effort to increase drag and reduce lift.

Long, braced wings. Give it a few years of trial and error, and they could be the future of terrestrial flight.


(Via NASA)