NASA’s Airline of the Future Has a Radical New Wing Design

The VS-1.

Just about all commercial jetliners we fly in today have a very similar wing design mounted at the bottom of the fuselage. But NASA, working with Boeing, plans to change this configuration in the future in a bid to increase fuel efficiency.

The new beastie has not been built yet but when they finally put  together an experimental version, it will look radically different to the familiar jets of today. NASA is proposing a flying machine with long skinny wings that extend from the top of the fuselage, above the windows, not below. The wings are so long and skinny they will have to be supported by a pair of trusses, making the new machine resemble the biplanes of old in some ways.

The purpose of the new plane, which for now is being labelled the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator, is to prove new fuel-saving technology so future travel will be less damaging to the environment. The saving could be quite substantial too. NASA believes that it can achieve at least a 30% reduction in fuel usage, although this will not all be from the redesigned wing.

The airline industry is seen as one of the hardest to decarbonise. It simply is not possible to electrify long haul airlines in the same way as governments are planning to do for ground transportation. So, redesigning what we currently have seems to be a reasonable route to take. In addition to the wing, the plane will feature two advanced engines slung under the wing and a T-shaped tail. For now, Boeing is looking for it to be used in the short-haul, workaday flights currently served by Boeings 737 or Airbuses A320, and there is no plan for a wide bodied version to compete with the 787 or A350.

Adding long thin wings will give extra lift as well as reduce the amount of drag caused by the vortices that form at the end of the wings. The trusses are also designed to provide lift, much like the biplane’s extra wings used to. As of yet, I can find no information on if or when the first prototype will be built, but NASA has granted Boeing USD425 million over the next seven years to make it so…

If you want to know more then watch the video:


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