Morphing in aircraft has been studied and used throughout recent time in order to increase their flight envelope. This characteristic is of the up-most importance in order to offer a greater efficiency, versatility and performance during the assigned mission. Moreover an aircraft with the capability to adapt itself to each given situation is prone to achieve positive results to a range of different missions instead of requiring a specific aircraft to conduct one specific mission.
The main objective of this project is to study and develop a novel morphing system which integrates up to four different morphing mechanisms into in a single wing and to demonstrate this new ability in flight. This system takes advantage of all the performance improvements achieved by adopting its wing shape according to the mission requirements of each flight phase. Therefore, this project envisions mitigating the required energy (and thus fuel consumption) to maintain the aircraft's flight and to perform the necessary flight maneuvers by offering the capacity to mould the exterior of the aircraft in order to enhance the necessary aspect of flight so as to lessen the required energy, such as lift over drag ratio, efficiency in aerodynamic control, lower stall velocity or to change to a better platform to perform a required maneuver.
In order to prepare the basis for an eventual cognitive morphing on-board controller which ability is focused in the autonomous control of all morphing system of the wing, it is necessary to develop software that is capable of rendering the most efficient morphed wing based on the information of the current phase. This software would therefore, be able to conduct an assessment of the introduced flight conditions of the wing and display the accordant morphed wing (using a database with all current morphing systems) capable to fly with the highest performance.
Technologies for morphing
An EU team evaluated technologies that enable morphing of aircraft wings. The group proposed six technologies and tested five in wind tunnels, plus combined several systems onto a single unpiloted vehicle wing.
Morphing in aviation refers to changing the shape of an aircraft's wing during flight to achieve performance increases. Although an old idea, its practical implementation requires considerable research and development.
The EU-funded http://www.fp7-change.eu (CHANGE) (Combined morphing assessment software using flight envelope data and mission based morphing prototype wing development) project investigated the application of morphing technologies in aviation. The team tested various technologies, separately and in combination. Testing included unmanned vehicles and wind tunnels.
The group proposed and developed six novel morphing concept technologies. Five were validated via wind tunnel testing. Using unmanned vehicles, the consortium also demonstrated the feasibility of combining multiple morphing mechanisms on a single wing. Researchers further developed and tested various single- and multiple-material skins, suitable for other structures in addition to aircraft skins.
CHANGE developed a modular software architecture capable of determining and achieving optimum wing shape. The innovations include a new shape measurement technique. All aspects of the software system were verified using morphing structural design combined with wind tunnel testing. The software is intended for eventual autonomous use in aircraft.
The project hosted three successful workshops and brokerage events.
CHANGE made substantial progress towards practical implementation of multiple wing shape-altering technologies. The innovations may eventually lead to cost reductions and performance increases for aircraft.