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Mission Adaptive Compliant Wing (MACW)

MACW in flight

Morphing aircraft wings that alter their shape in response to changing flight conditions have been an elusive goal for aerospace engineers &mdash until now. FlexSys has developed a smooth, hinge-free wing whose trailing and/or leading edges morph on demand to adapt to different flight conditions. With Air Force SBIR funding, we have built working prototypes and demonstrated their performance in wind tunnels and in flight.

FlexSys Trailing Edge Continuously Deflects ± 10°

High-endurance air vehicles must have the ability to continually adjust the shape of their wings to maximize cruise efficiency as the aircraft burns off fuel and requires less lift. FlexSys, with funding from Air Force Research Lab's Air Vehicle Directorate, and in coordination with Lockheed Martin, designed a trailing edge flap for a concept high-endurance aircraft wing. Full-scale numerical studies have shown that the technology is weight- and power-competitive with conventional flaps. The compliant trailing edge flap produces a smooth shape change as it deflects from -10° to +10° . Additionally, the flap can twist along the span to tailor wing loading, and can be actuated at rates fast enough to be used as a control surface.


  • See how the MACW deflects ± 10° and twists up to 1° per foot span. (1.5MB .wmv movie)
  • See the MACW operate at 30° /sec. (1.3MB .wmv movie)
  • Watch a low speed smoke test. Note that no flow separation occurs through +8° deflection. Minimal separation compared to conventional flaps occurs above +8° . (1.37MB .wmv movie)

+10 Deflection
+10 degrees

-10 Deflection
-10 degrees

Flight Testing

The Mission Adaptive Compliant Wing was flight tested at Scaled Composites in Mojave, CA, at the end of October 2006. Stay tuned for more images, movies, and results as they become available. More...

SARL Wind Tunnel Testing

In June 2006 the MACW was tested in the Subsonic Aerodynamic Research Laboratory (SARL) at Wright-Patterson Airforce Base. Testing showed that the MACW performs as designed. More...

Structural Testing

The MACW has undergone rigorous fatigue testing at FlexSys. A 40 x 60 inch structural model is awaiting testing by the Test Structures Group at Wright-Patterson AFB. More...

University of Michigan Wind Tunnel Testing

A smaller MACW prototype was tested in the University of Michigan 5' x 7' low speed wind tunnel. More...

Compliant Leading Edge

FlexSys has designed and prototyped a wing leading edge whose camber changes continuously from 0-6° . Wind tunnel testing demonstrates a 25% increase in the lift coefficient and a 51% increase in lift-to-drag ratio, particularly at high angles of attack. More...

Adaptive Compliant Wing