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Morphing Aerospace Vehicles and Structures by John Valasek

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1

Introduction

John Valasek

Texas A&M University, USA

A flying machine is impossible, in spite of the testimony of the birds

—John Le Conte, well-known naturalist, ”The Problem of the Flying Machine,” Popular Science Monthly, November 1888, p. 69.

1.1 Introduction

Current interest in morphing vehicles has been fueled by advances in smart technologies such as materials, sensors, actuators, their associated support hardware and microelectronics. These advances have led to a series of breakthroughs in a wide variety of disciplines that, when fully realized for aircraft applications, have the potential to produce large improvements in aircraft safety, affordability, and environmental compatibility. The road to these advances and applications is paved with the efforts of pioneers going back several centuries. This chapter seeks to succinctly map out this road by highlighting the contributions of these pioneers and showing the historical connections between bio-inspiration and aeronautical engineering. A second objective is to demonstrate that the field of morphing has now come nearly full circle over the past 100 plus years. Birds inspired the pioneer aviators, who sought solutions to aerodynamic and control problems of flight. But a smooth and continuous shape-changing capability like that of birds was beyond the technologies of the day, so the concept of variable geometry using conventional hinges and pivots evolved and was used for many years. With new results in bio-inspiration ...

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