NASA Shines Lasers on Future Aircraft Concept

Boeing engineer Stephen Provost checks out a blended wing body model before a wind tunnel test at NASA Langley. (NASA/David C. Bowman)

As NASA aeronautics engineers prepare to develop a series of greener, quieter, faster X-planes, they are already testing concepts that could be candidates. One of those is a Boeing blended wing body (BWB). A blended wing body doesn't look like a conventional airplane. Instead of the usual tube and wing design – it's shaped more like a triangle where the wings are merged into the body. Another difference is that it does not have a tail.

The top of the BWB has been painted in non-reflective matte black to accommodate laser lights that will sweep across the model in sheets. NASA and Boeing researchers will use those laser sheets combined with smoke in the technique known as particle imagery velocimetry or PIV. That will map the airflow over the model.