NASA has developed a new kind of supersonic craft with interesting possibilities.
It's a bird! No, it's a plane! No, it's a supersonic unmanned aerial vehicle with foldable wings!
NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center recently conducted tests for their Spanwise Adaptive Wing project.
The craft in question was a subscale UAV called Prototype Technology-Evaluation Research Aircraft, or PTERA, and it was outfitted with a special alloy that can be used to control and shape the wings.
NASA researchers partnered with Boeing to develop the material called "Shape Memory Alloy" that is triggered by temperature changes to move the outer portion of the wings up and down during flight.
The ability to change wing angle and shape can give standard planes, including commercial airliners, a way to adapt to different flight conditions. Pilots will also have more control over the craft. Supersonic planes will receive more benefits from these foldable wings, however, mostly in the form of reduced drag and increased efficiency.
The next batch of test flights will be held by summer 2018.
To see the aircraft in action, check out the video below from NASA: