Casual Friday — "morphing" aircraft

Press releases and the like always need to be taken with a big grain of salt — often they contain more salesmanship (and showmanship) than they do legitimate “news.” One piece of aerospace technology which seems to be particularly prone to overselling these days is the idea of “morphing” aircraft.

From the first attempts at flight, humans have tried to fly like the birds — sometimes more literally, sometimes less. The idea behind “morphing” aircraft is to make an aircraft with wings that change shape so radically that they essentially behave much like a bird’s wings.

It’s at this point that things start getting fuzzy. Any modern aircraft has control surfaces and flaps that can change its wings’ shape. Some military aircraft over the years have had “swing” wings that can change their degree of sweep. So in a sense, almost any modern aircraft could be said to have “morphing” wings. The real push now (at least in research) seems to be toward jointed wings, such that part or parts of the wing can hinge up or down in flight as the situation demands.

Today’s video comes from New Scientist, and shows experiments with a radio-controlled aircraft that has jointed wing tips:

If you’d like to read more about this particular craft, and the researchers working on / with it, you might want to check out the New Scientist article devoted to it.

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