Wag the Plane, Save Tons of Fuel

Adam Eisman - Contributing Writer
Posted on Sunday 31st May 2009
Researchers at the University of Warwick in England have come up with a model idea that might just save the Airline Industry, or at least make air travel a lot more sustainable. When a model airplane was placed in the wind tunnel, it was found that the plane could increase its fuel efficiency by 20% just by waggling, or flapping in a way, their wings. The concept is based on the performed of sharks, in which tiny ridges on their bodies can reduce their skin friction by about 5%. When adapted for airplanes, the technique would not involve the wings of the plane actually moving, as that could create new stability issues, however, the plan is to employ tiny jets that would redirect air over the wings in a way that would mimic a waggling motion. This would create major reductions in the mid-flight air drag of the wings, allowing a plane to use less fuel as it has less resistance throughout the flight. The head of the research, Dr. Duncan Lockerby, is unsure why this particular strategy seems to be effective at reducing drag, but has stated that climate change affords the Airline Industry no time to dwell on the causes of their discovery, and prototypes are slated to be released by 2012. It is expected that this technology will be able to reduce skin friction drag by 40% for airplanes. The United Kingdom’s airline industry has pledged to cut its emissions per passenger by 50% before 2020.

test image for this block