NASA technologies could save US airlines roughly $250 billion in operational costs

One of the innovations under the ERA would allow aircraft to be built with smaller tail fins, by integrating tiny air nozzles in the structure that allow for increased control with a smaller surface area(Credit: NASA/Dominic Hart)

According to NASA, US airlines could save up to 250 billion dollars between 2025 and 2050. It will all be thanks to green technology pioneered by the agency and industry partners, as part of NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project.

ERA concluded in 2015 after a set six-year running period that focused on the development and testing of eight eco-friendly technologies. The project received over $400 million of NASA funding, with industry partners such as Boeing and Pratt & Whitney contributing around $250 million worth of resources.

Technologies developed under the ERA program would seek to dramatically reduce fuel consumption, aircraft noise and the pollution that comes as an inevitable byproduct of air travel. This would be achieved by increasing engine efficiency and refinement paired with a number of advancements in overall airplane design.

For example, as part of the project, NASA partnered up with 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. Another innovation would reduce weight and drag by allowing the integration of a shorter vertical tail fin by utilizing embedded air nozzles, providing increased stability and directional control of air flow over current designs.

Other technologies included the innovation of a system that would allow the wing of an aircraft to deploy the aerodynamic flaps that allow a conventional aircraft to manipulate its trajectory in the air without exposing gaps in the wing structure. This would have the dual effect of reducing aircraft noise and increasing fuel efficiency due to reduced drag.

Based on computer simulations, alongside the projected $250 billion saving, NASA forecasts that implementation of the green technologies could cut US aviation pollution by 75 percent, while reducing noise levels to one-eighth their current level.

Source: NASA

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