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Fly Like Birds
12.18.03
 
Geese Flying in V-Shaped Formation
Image above: Geese flying in formation
You can't beat Mother Nature when it comes to flight design. Geese flying in V-shaped patterns are saving energy. Each bird uses the uplifting air coming off the bird in front of it. This makes flying easier. When the bird in front gets tired, it moves to the back. The next bird in line takes the lead. This is their formation on their long trip south.

This type of flying isn't easy for aircraft pilots. An airplane creates lift when it flies. The lift makes the wind twist off the tip of the plane's wings. This makes it hard for pilots to control their planes while they fly in a pattern. A plane's flight is not as good as the bird's formation flight. NASA is looking at helping planes to fly in formation using autopilots. They will use a program called Autonomous Flight Formation.
 
Blue Angels in V-Shaped Flight Formation
Image above: Jets flying in formation
NASA is trying to do what birds do in nature. Birds fly long distances and use less energy. NASA hopes to help pilots save fuel and money. Flying these formations is how they will do it.

This project is divided into four parts. NASA is in phase two now. This part plans how far apart from each other the planes can safely fly. At the end of part four, all the phases will work together.

When all of the parts come together, the planes will use autopilot computers. Then, they will fly in their formations.

Engineers hope to save money on fuel. Long-distance flights could save 10 percent on fuel costs. This is a big savings after you add up all the flights taken everyday.

 
 
Published by NASAexplores