MIT morphing wing changes shape for more efficient flight

A new project at MIT for a wing that is able to change shape during flight is a bit of a throwback to the aircraft that the Wright Brothers first flew over a hundred years ago. The Wright Brothers used a system of pulleys and cables that twisted the wings of their aircraft to control flight. A new wing that is being developed by MIT uses a similar approach to allow the wing to morph and change shape for more efficient flight and manufacturing.

This new wing design would simplify the manufacturing process and reduce aircraft fuel consumption by improving aerodynamics. MIT researchers also say that the new morphing wings would offer improved agility for the aircraft and the design uses a system of small and light subunits inside the wings.

These tiny subunits could be manufactured by a team of small and specialized robots that could ultimately build the entire airframe of the plane. The surface of this wing would be covered in a skin made of overlapping pieces that could look like scales or feathers. Dragon plane anyone? The finished wing would need no flaps or ailerons to control direction in the air, the wings would simply bend to achieve the desired flight direction.

Researchers and engineers have tried for years to develop a reliable system for deforming wings for flight controls as a replacement to conventional controls with little success so far. The challenge is that previous wing deformation attempts relied on systems so heavy that they negated any improvements in efficiency by losing traditional control surfaces. MIT's system uses to small motors that apply twisting pressure to each wingtip. There is no indication how long it might be before this tech makes it to aircraft we see flying around each day.