By waggling a wing, aircrafts could save up to 20% fuel – thus saving on costs significantly and also cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from aviation.
The surprise discovery was made by researchers at the University of Warwick in Coventry, West Midlands, England, who were “playing with” a model aircraft-wing in a wind tunnel.
In fact, the wings of the plane themselves will not waggle. However, by employing tiny jets to redirect air over the wing in a way that emulates the motion of waggling, the researchers think that they can pull off major reductions in mid-flight air drag on wings– thus letting the aircraft fly with lower resistance and consuming less fuel.
“This has come as a bit of a surprise to all of us in the aerodynamics community,” Dr Duncan Lockerby, of the University of Warwick, who is leading the project, said, adding: “We are not exactly sure why this technology reduces drag, but with the pressure of climate change, we cannot afford to wait around to find out.”
The concept of waggling a wing is based on the tiny ridges found on the bodies of sharks, which can reduce skin-friction drag by about 5%. But, Dr Duncan Lockerby says his team believes that the micro-jet system could actually reduce skin-friction drag by as much as 40%.
The research, conducted by scientists at four universities around the United Kingdom, is still the concept stage. Yet, researchers do believe that they could have the wings ready for testing by 2012.
Well, we are waiting for that big day to land.