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NASA Concludes Its Hybrid Plane Research Successfully

January 7
7:12 AM 2016

NASA researchers on Monday has been concluding its six-year research on developing fuel efficient airplane. The Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project started in 2009 with a federal government fund and industry partners from Boeing and Pratt & Whitney.

PR Newswire reported that the ERA was created in 2009 and completed in 2015. Its mission is to explore and document the feasibility, benefits and technical risk of inventive vehicle concepts and enabling technologies that would reduce aviation's impact on the environment.

Researchers in the ERA focused on eight major integrated technology demonstrations that divided into three categories – airframe technology, propulsion technology and vehicle systems integration. Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for aeronautics research said, "If these technologies start finding their way into the airline fleet, our computer models show the economic impact could amount to $255 billion in operational savings between 2025 and 2050."

For ERA project, NASA had invested more than $400 million funding, with another $250 million resources from industry partners to research those eight technologies. Inverse reported that Fayette Collier, ERA project manager said about the project, "It was challenging because we had a fixed window, a fixed budget, and all eight demonstrations needed to finish at the same time."

As for the result, Collier who graduated from Virginia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology added, "We then had to synthesize all the results and complete our analysis so we could tell the world what the impact would be. We really did quite well."

Eight technologies that is researched for six years are able to be dramatically reduce fuel consumption by 30 percent, as well as aircraft noise and pollution. This is achieved by increasing engine efficiency and refinement paired with a number of advancements in overall design of an airplane.

In airframe technology, NASA concluded that hybrid wing body concept along with morphing wing technology is able to minimize fuel burn and reducing noise. The project also reseached composite material to create damage-tolerant structures to produce a lighter aircraft body.

Gizmag also emphasized partnership between NASA and Boeing researchers to test out a protective coating that could be applied to aircraft wings in order to significantly reduce the aerodynamic drag caused by insects adhering to the wing. The research also showed innovation in integrating shorter vertical tail fin by utilizing embedded air nozzles is able to provide increased stability and directional control of air flow.

The result of ERA research project is a great benefit for airline industry. Especially considering U.S. airline spends over 8 billion gallons of fuel each year, according to U.S Department of Transportation data.

Subsequent to the project conclusion, NASA will presented the result of ERA project at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Science and Technology Conference in San Diego this week.

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