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Ahead of the Curve: Novel morphing wing may reduce aircraft's fuel use

Airplane designers have long admired how birds reshape their wings for soaring, diving, and maneuvering. Now, a prototype aircraft wing has demonstrated in its first flight tests that its morphing might save fuel.

In a series of evaluations that began in October and ended last week, subtle shape-shifting by the wing's trailing edge minimized fuel-wasting air resistance, or drag, at a variety of altitudes, speeds, wing angles, and other conditions, says aeronautical engineer Russell F. Osborn Jr. of the Ann Arbor, Mich.–based company FlexSys, which created the wing.

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