NASA says new wing design proves successful in wind tunnel

Researchers from two different NASA aeronautics centers teamed up to study and confirm that an old, unused wing design could help future aircrafts be much more efficient. The wing configuration, based on designs from the 1930s, were put through a series of wind tunnel tests recently. The wing has been playing a part in the design of a boomerang-shaped aircraft that NASA hopes could one day fly over Mars.

Among those involved in the research is Al Bowers of NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, who is also the program manager for the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Lower Drag, or Prandtl-d, which makes use of the new wing design. Testing Prandtl-d in wind tunnels resulted in confirmation of several existing theories about the wing, including its impressive stability, but also new discoveries.

One of the surprises was "how the wing maintains control even when it is completely stalled," says Bowers, adding that "these things are hard to know from intuition, it's only having the data in hand that tells us about the real behavior."

While there are no plans for more wind tunnel tests at this point, the next step is to build a simulation database, along with flight tests that will study the aerodynamic pressures over the wing.