Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Airframe Fuel Efficiency: NASA Attempts to Crack one of the Toughest Nuts to Crack

Hat tip to Ollie - he's been cranking 'em out lately, including an excellent pointer to this article about logistics travails in Afghanistan making Iraq look like a day at the beach. In the meantime, whether they be flown by man, woman, or machine, big things that fly drink a heck of a lot of fuel. GE's been reporting progress on engine efficiency; now here's NASA pushing on the airframe itself:
NASA says the ability to cut drag by controlling the amount of laminar flow— or smoother, boundary-layer air over a wing surface—offers potential improvements in fuel efficiency, range and payload that “far exceed” any known single aeronautical technology. Possible fuel savings of up to 30% for subsonic commercial aircraft have been suggested, should a successful passive natural laminar flow (NLF) or active hybrid laminar flow system be developed.
There's more here in this Aviation Week article. The DOD fuel burden impact of even single percentage point improvements would be massive. Efficiency investments here could yield huge returns: less fuel per mission, or longer but fewer missions. Or more 24/7 eyes and ears in the skies to help our guys on the ground.

Image Credit: Standford University

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