Can an up-close study of bird flight clear shapeshifting aircraft wings for takeoff?

The ability of birds to fly more efficiently by changing the shape of their wings has inspired a number of approaches to developing low-energy aircraft. If this technique can be replicated, where individual feathers are adjusted to guide the animals through the air, it could make for vehicles that are lighter, faster and more maneuverable. With a view to making such shape-shifting wings a reality, scientists are about to get up close and personal with our avian friends, launching into the most detailed analysis of bird flight ever conducted in the name of aerospace engineering.Read More

United Airlines commences regular bio-fueled flights

Without much in the way of fanfare, United Airlines began flying regularly scheduled flights using biofuels earlier this month. Following years of demonstration and test flights to prove the fuel's viability, it's the first instance of a US airline putting commercial-scale volumes of biofuel into passenger-carrying planes on an ongoing basis.Read More

Slippery substance-secreting SLUGs to stop ice buildup

Anyone who's tried to travel by air during winter might know how frustrating it can be to sit on the tarmac while ice is removed from the wings of the aircraft. A truck spraying the wings with a de-icing agent might get the job done, but it also means precious travel time is wasted. To reduce downtime, scientists have developed a material that secretes a slick substance when temperatures drop to prevent ice from sticking to the wings in the first place.Read More

DARPA's unmanned X-Plane packs electric fans aplenty for vertical take-off and landing

If there was a competition for the oddest looking aircraft, then DARPA's VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) would have to be in the running for the main prize. With a modularized, cellular wing design that looks like a flying set of cupboards, the unmanned aircraft is a hybrid of fixed-wing and rotary wing technologies designed to create a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft that boasts greater range and speed capabilities.Read More

Boeing creates self-cleaning, germ-zapping lavatory for airliners

One of the drawbacks of flying is that you're sharing the lavatory with a couple of hundred people of unknown hygiene standards, and the thing won't be properly cleaned again until the plane touches down. To make the airborne germaphobe a bit more comfortable and the facilities more hygienic, Boeing has created a self-cleaning airliner lavatory that uses non-touch technology and ultraviolet light that's claimed to kill 99.99 percent of germs in three seconds.Read More

Long-endurance Predator drone spreads its wings

The Predator B (AKA the MQ-9 Reaper) is one of the mainstay drones of the US Air Force and is also flown by the air forces of the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. In the latest of a long series of upgrades, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has announced the maiden flight of the Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper Extended Range (ER) Long Wing. Retrofitted with long-endurance wings with greater internal fuel capacity and a raft of other features, the improvements bring the drone into the reconnaissance class.Read More

Refurbished Solar Impulse 2 returns to the skies

Following a seven-month grounding in Hawaii, Solar Impulse 2 is preparing for a return to its historic round-the-world sun-powered flight. The team has carried out a maintenance flight to test out newly installed systems and plans to continue its journey at the end of April with a four-day flight from Hawaii to the west coast of the USA. Read More

NASA wants to bring back X-planes to test new aviation technologies

The American X-planes were part of the romance of the heyday of post-war aviation with test pilots like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in the X-1 and a rival corps of astronauts flew into space in the X-15. As part of a 10-year plan proposed by the Obama administration, NASA Aeronautics' New Aviation Horizons program wants to revive the X-planes for the 21st century as demonstrators for emerging, greener flight technologies.Read More


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