If you’ve ever been blasted by the downwash of a drone when it flies over you, you know how much air four spinning rotors can move. But to help improve the design and flight characteristics of future drones, NASA had its supercomputers simulate what that air movement actually looks like, and it’s impossibly complex.
Migratory birds can glide over very long distances with minimal wing-flapping, thanks to their strategic use of rising warm air currents. A new study has found that the birds use two basic sensory cues, combined with reinforcement learning algorithms (RLA), to navigate this turbulent environment.
May 17, 1956: The swinging doors of this massive supersonic wind tunnel utterly dwarf the puny engineer deluding himself that he can control its voracious appetite.
April 10, 1990: This is what happens when you unfurl a massive parachute in the world’s largest wind tunnel.
Holy crap. Testing how aircraft ice in extreme cold weather makes sense, but surely this is going too far?! This 1983 test at NASA’s Icing Research Tunnel dropped this commuter transport engine into its own special torment, spraying it with water to observe freezing on the test model.
Smoke and lasers take this model aircraft from looking good to gorgeous. The flow visualization was part of high speed research on the F-16 Scamp conducted at NASA’s Langeley Research Center in 1992.
Spider crickets are masters of aerodynamics. They don’t have wings, but they can jump up to 60 times their body length — equivalent to a human track star jumping the length of a football field. Now a team of engineering students at Johns Hopkins University has videotaped the critters in slow motion and discovered some…
1985: Adding lasers makes even a supersonic wind tunnel more awesome.
1961: Big science is squeezed into a small package for this supersonic transport model. All it takes is a tiny bomber under 3 centimeters long to check out the propagating roar of sonic booms.
Slapping a giant fin on the back of your hand-me-down Corolla isn’t going to make it go any faster. But researchers at Yokohama have found that adding a series of angled fins to a tire can actually help improve a vehicle’s aerodynamics, which in turn means better fuel efficiency and fewer stops at the pumps.
Film noir set or serious aerodynamics research facility? NASA blended the two in this enormous wind tunnel, the historical facility used to test the aerodynamics of everything from the Corsair through hypersonic aircraft, and the DHC-5 Buffalo through Saturn rockets.
September 11, 1959: The Mercury Capsule dropped in free-flight within Langley’s Spin Tunnel so researchers could observe how it gyrated and tumbled during descent. The Spin Tunnel remains in use today to study aerodynamics during unconventional maneuvers.
Oh, wow. Aerodynamics research has never looked as pretty as it does with this new variation of an old technique for imaging supersonic shockwaves.
Owls are often considered nature’s stealth fighters, and it turns out their ability to silently is a result of a unique wing structure not found in any other bird. Now that researchers know the owl’s secret, they can make lots of stuff silent—everything from bedroom ceiling fans to massive wind turbines.
Flying’s great—you can be whisked across time zones in a matter of hours—but it’s not so great for your wallet, or the atmosphere. But NASA’s new wing design that adjusts its flaps mid-flight could be the fix.
This strangely alive-looking blob isn't a prop from a sci-fi movie. It's a smorph, a morphing material that could make the cars, trains and airplanes of tomorrow extremely aerodynamic, using the same trick that helps golf balls fly faster and straighter.
In the 2010 World Cup, players complained the ball was wonky, so this year has an all-new ball. NASA used smoke, lasers, and fluid boxes to test out its aerodynamics. Aside from producing some awesome photographs, the actual science is pretty cool, too.
When the 2014 FIFA World Cup gets started on June 12 in Brazil, the world's greatest soccer players will be booting around one of the most advanced balls ever created for the sport — and the science proves it.