4D Composite Printing Creates Shape-Shifting Drone Wing

Researchers have developed a way to fabricate a new type of wing that can change its shape in flight for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) cheaply and efficiently using a novel 4D-printing process, they said. Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, have developed a new way to fabricate what are called “compliant trailing edge (ACTE)” morphing wings for drones. They are eyeing the experimental technology to replace the commonly used hinged wing flap with an ACTE wing, which is attached to the main wing body of the UAV but can bend up to 20 degrees, researchers said. Like most industries, aviation is looking to cut costs due to rises in fuel prices, but also maintain quality aircraft and business efficiency amid environmental and other concerns. UAVs—perhaps best known for their uses in the military and to provide video for social media, entertainment, and sports—are a growing sector of this industry and have the same concerns as those building larger aircraft. Specifically, the study—led by Concordia Professor of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering Suong Hoa—used 4D printing with composite materials to develop the new wing, which could be applicable in certain types of UAVs and provide an improved wing design cost-effectively, he said. “Our paper shows that a UAV using this kind of wing can support a good amount of load for small- or medium-sized vehicles,” Hoa, who also is director for the Concordia Center for Composites, said in a press statement. 

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