From early biplanes to modern commercial airliners, airplane design has come a long way to accommodate more weight, reach higher speeds, and carry out increasingly complex maneuvers. One such advancement in recent years has been NASA’s development of the spanwise adaptive wing (SAW). This design has planes able to adjust wingtips for greater maneuverability for a wide range of plane types. As such, they have become useful mechanisms for creating lighter, quicker planes. To learn more about SAWs and their associated advancements, read on as we discuss how this innovation is allowing for even more capable aircraft.
The spanwise adaptive wing works by using a thermally triggered actuator made from NASA-developed shape memory alloy (SMA) to allow the outermost parts of aircraft wings and control surfaces to be folded to achieve optimal angles during flight. In a traditional wing, there is a fixed airfoil with various control surfaces which can be angled differently to facilitate a raise in elevation or roll. Having wings which can adjust themselves to work like a control surface, planes can do more complex operations with less control surfaces. For aircraft that can fly faster than the speed of sound, SAWs can reduce drag and increase performance during the transition from subsonic to supersonic speeds. For subsonic aircraft, SAW’s lend greater control and reduced dependency on the tail rudder and its associated hydraulic systems, a particularly heavy part of aircraft.
Since SAWs allow for reduced dependency on the rudder, engineers at NASA looked at methods for decreasing rudder size without sacrificing functionality. One major method has been the development of the outer aileron yaw damper which further reduces dependency on the rudder. This system combines the motion of ailerons on the wingtips with those on the inner wings for a more stable change in direction. Driven by a control algorithm, the ailerons are moved to facilitate the desired yaw rate while, at the same time, it positions the inner ailerons to counter roll rate resulting for the outer aileron. In essence, the control algorithm calculates the current position of the wingtips and produces a balanced yaw and roll movement.
Outer Aileron Yaw Dampers can also be used to counterbalance the existing rudder in an aircraft. For this, a second part of the control algorithm modifies the aircraft’s rudder loop gain in proportion to outer aileron usage. Therefore, it allows the outer ailerons to work in tandem with the rudder while also reducing the use of the rudder. As a result, for aircraft with SAWs, the size of the rudders and vertical stabilizers can be reduced. This also lessens overall weight and drag so that the vessel can fly with better performance and efficiency.
In conclusion, the development of spanwise adaptive wings has allowed for more efficient tail design that combines several ailerons to lessen the dependency on the rudder for balance and directional control. Operating as the leading supplier of yaw dampers and other components, NSN Sourcing is well-equipped to find part procurement solutions for your next project. When you are in need of high-quality products, we invite you to explore our online catalog of available parts and request quotes for your comparison with ease using our 24/7x365 RFQ service. Backed by speedy turnaround times and a widespread supply network, we promise convenient shipping wherever you are located. Begin procuring the parts you require with NSN Sourcing today to see all that we can do as your premier sourcing partner.
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