NASA X Future Technology Evolution UAV Aircraft Boeing X-48




Coming up on this episode of NASA X, we follow members of the Environmentally Responsible Aviation team as they conduct a variety of tests on new aircraft designs that are in the early stages of development. We will follow them to see how initial designs and ideas are moved through the pipeline from computer drawings and wind tunnel models, all the way to scale-model aircraft and full-scale flights. We will see how each new step is bringing us closer to flying on board future aircraft that are more efficient, quieter, and safe.

What does it take to change the world? Historically, change has usually been slow-moving and methodical, taking hundreds of years for even incremental advances to be seen. But over the past century, things have shifted, and that trend has reversed to the point where some forms of change now come at breakneck speed. Just look at our personal computing devices as an example. Our cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices come out to great fanfare one day, only to be labeled as obsolete and clunky after only a few months.

In our consumer-driven world, that type of fast-moving change is okay, but when it comes to building large-scale, long-term items like cars, buildings, and aircraft, the process is slowed down to make sure those items are as safe and reliable as possible. This disciplined and deliberate process can be seen clearly in the aircraft industry. Before new technologies are implemented, they are first tested and retested for many years to make sure they will perform perfectly every time.

And because getting it right is so important, the workload is often shared with thousands of highly skilled industry personnel as well as with the brilliant engineers who run our national wind tunnels, labs, and flight facilities at NASA. Much of the early testing begins at NASA, where engineers bring the breadth of years of aeronautical knowledge to bear on each new design before a craft is ever placed into service. But how does this testing work, and what is the process that researchers go through to make flying as safe as possible?

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