NASA aeronautics engineers are testing concepts that could be candidates for the development of greener, quieter, faster X-planes. One of those is a blended wing body (BWB), a triangular tailless aircraft that effectively merges the vehicle’s wing and body. A 6%-scale, 13ft-wingspan model of a Boeing BWB is currently being tested in the 14 x 22ft Subsonic Tunnel at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
This same model was tested in the Langley 14 x 22ft tunnel in 2014 and in the 40 x 80ft Wind Tunnel at NASA's Ames Research Center in California in 2015. That work was part of NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation programme, which developed technologies to improve fuel efficiencies, lower noise levels and reduce emissions.
For the current tests, the BWB has been painted in non-reflective matte black to accommodate laser lights that will sweep across the model in sheets. NASA and Boeing researchers will use those laser sheets combined with smoke in the technique known as particle imagery velocimetry or PIV. That will map the airflow over the model.
Time permitting, testing will be conducted to measure the effectiveness of various control surfaces. That data will be compared with and supplement the set of data collected over the last two years.
Boeing says it sees potential for a BWB-type aircraft to be developed in the next 10 years as a subsonic transport, possibly beginning with military transport variants for airlift and aerial refueling,