contributions to commercial aviation from NASA

1. Digital Fly-by-Wire

These days, every aircraft is controlled by the Fly-By-Wire system – an efficient digital system that communicates with the flight control surfaces, which regulate the plane’s altitude. This innovation was introduced after the 1970s, when NASA helped to develop and implement the new technology, which replaced the old (and heavy!) hydro-mechanical systems.

2. Lightning Protection Standards

The formation of lightning and its effects on aircraft was the theme of an extensive research conducted by NASA between the 1970s and ‘80s. The results, collected during flight tests, helped rockets and civil aviation, with new protection standards that are used all over the world to this day.

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3. Winglets

Do you know that curved device at the tip of plane wings? This innovation was also proposed by NASA. In the 1970s and ‘80s, the American agency studied ways to reduce drag without increasing the length of the wings. The result was the winglet, a device that also contributes to increase speed and reduce fuel consumption during flight.

4. Airborne Wind Shear Detection

Between the 1980s and ‘90s, NASA researchers studied the dangerous effects of wind shear, which is a very rapid change in wind direction or speed. The results led to the creation of long-distance sensors, which alert pilots and captains of sudden changes throughout a flight.

5. Jet Engine Combustors

With the arrival of a new millennium, between the 1990s and 2000s, environmental issues became the focus of researchers all over the world. The result was the development of jet engine combustors, which reduced the emission of pollutants, making airplanes cleaner and more sustainable in the following years.