Using Light to Measure the Airflow Over a Wing to Algorithmically Morph the Surface for Efficiency

By Lance Winslow

In the future aircraft will have wings that morph and fuselages which can contort. Why you ask? Because it will make them more efficient, and safer to fly at both high and low speed. This is where the material science is going, and it is obvious to see as new carbon composites are reconfigured and all the new attributes we are discovering about these materials. Okay so let’s talk further about this shall we?

There was an interesting paper that came out in 2005 produced by NASA and the US Army Research arm of the US Military which discusses self-healing, diagnostic, and optimum in-flight tuning of aircraft engines to ensure long-life and efficiency at all times – this would be done and actually is being done using sophisticated algorithms. The paper is titled; “A Survey of Intelligent Control and Health Management Technologies for Aircraft Propulsion Systems.”sadiq-50

In the future as sensors get better this will guarantee the best of all possible compromises in adjustments while the aircraft is in use or flying, as the paper postulates in the introduction, for this I have zero doubt, and believe to be the reality as we move forward, thus, this of course makes sense, but what about the future of morphing aircraft surfaces, rotor blades, and fuselages? Let’s continue this conversation because I have an idea and new potential concept here.

Now then, in another paper published in December of 2006; “Project acronym: SEAT Project full title: Smart Technologies for stress free Air Travel – Proposal/Contract no.: AST5-CT-2006-030958, they suggest that the vibrations for passengers inside the aircraft come from various places, airflow buffeting, engines, noise within the cabin, etc. and yes, anyone who has flown lots of air miles can attest to this.

One way to check for wind shear at airports, or look at the changes in the density of wind is to use laser light. It’s also possible at certain spectrums against the backdrop of the sun or with mirrors and reflectors to see the airflow through canyons, around buildings, and in wind tunnels. What if we did something like this around an aircraft, and allowed the aircraft’s computer algorithms to slightly modify the surface of the airfoils or fuselage to slip through the air in the most efficient manner? This would prevent noise, buffeting, while it increased efficiency.

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If we used honeycomb materials and allow the buffeting of the air on the outside of the aircraft to move small magnetized devices inside those honeycombs to create electricity, and since carbon nano tubes and graphing coatings do have electrical attributes, that could provide the power to contort the fuselage or surface of the wing. In fact, we could use lasers at the front of the aircraft to look at the airflow coming across to the rest of the aircraft before it had transcended the wing or fuselage to help make shape shifting changes as that airflow move down the sides or across the top.

All this is possible, and we have the technology, and perhaps it’s time we start working on it. We will have quieter aircraft, safer aircraft and new generation aircraft with highly sophisticated modern materials which are lighter, stronger, and more efficient. That will be the future of aviation, and perhaps spacecraft. We should be working on this research and technology today, as we will sure need it in the future – have you seen the cost of jet fuel lately? Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

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