mitflexwing[Photo Credit:  KENNETH CHEUNG/NASA.]

There is a science of studying Nature and lifting great innovations from nature itself to apply as solutions to problems faced by peoplekind. That science is given the moniker, “Biomimicry”.

Years ago, people wanted to fly like birds. Inventors studied how birds flew and borrowed the notion of fusing “wings” to a passenger compartment to create what came to be known as today’s traditional passenger planes and jets. Since then we have been flying and experimenting with different wing designs for improved effectiveness.

To control the levelling of the aircraft wings or to control rocking and rolling, the two main wings were split along the trailing edge with smaller sectioned wings known as ailerons, or mini-wings, that are tipped up and down as required.

Recently, NASA and MIT engineers were able to model solid structure wings, that is, wings absent any ailerons.  One continuous wing but one that is strong enough to lift an aircraft yet semi-flexible enough to be able to twist as a means to control the tip and roll of the aircraft. The significance of this? Cheaper manufacturing, faster, and significantly lighter–approximately 90% lighter–wing structures.  That means aircraft can travel MUCH FARTHER on the same amount of energy than can traditional aircraft. Passenger planes can be manufactured with less raw material, thus less expensively and quicker. Repairs, too, can be quicker and cheaper.

Score a point or two for climate change enthusiasts, too. For those of you who believe the nonsense that there is anything people can do to roll back the 11,000-year climate change cycle we are experiencing, you’ll be happy to learn that aircraft using this technology is expected to emit much less CO2. There’s even a special bonus for the military, over which I’m sure they are salivating. This flexible wing technology may enable military UAVs, (unmanned air vehicles), to fly much farther, or to carry heavier payloads,  or to remain aloft much longer.



  1. Source:  “A New Twist On Airplane Wing design” by David L. Chandler. MIT News. Nov. 3, 2016.