Nasa is testing a new type of plane with flexible wings

By Martyn Landi

Nasa is planning a new round of tests for its flexible wings technology that the space agency believes could feature on aircraft of the future.

The X-56A uses highly flexible, lightweight wings rather than rigid ones in an attempt to create more fuel efficient long-range aircraft.

A new set of flights to test the technology will take place in November, Nasa said, and will focus on overcoming “past challenges” from earlier tests.

(Nasa/Lauren Hughes)

The agency said the landing gear and braking system of the X-56A had been redesigned to compensate and account for a type of vibration, known as flutter, that occurred at low speed in previous tests.

Project manager Cheng Moua said: “We want to show that this kind of wing can be built and the control technology exists to suppress flutter on them.”

(Nasa/Lauren Hughes)

Moua and Nasa said that if flutter is not alleviated, it can compromise the structure of aircraft. Its new test flights aim to fix the problem.

Once overcome however, the agency predicts major steps forward for long-range flight.

Those tests will take place using a small, remotely piloted aircraft built by US technology manufacturer Lockheed Martin, at Armstrong Flight Research Base in California.

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