NASA is looking at new ways of combatting the problem of bugs in its systems. I’m not talking about computer bugs but actual insects, which can cause an increase in fuel consumption and pollutants when they spatter onto planes and other vehicles.

Researchers at NASA, known as the ‘Bug Team’, have been testing various coatings in a bid to reduce the amount of insect guts left on commercial airplanes. It is hoped that if the amount of contamination can be reduced, then it could possibly result in lower flight costs.

airplane wing

Airplanes are subjected to the same onslaught from flying creatures much the same as a car windscreen. As these bug remains build up on the wings of an airplane, they disrupt the flow of air over the wings, creating a slight drag. This causes the plane to use slightly more fuel to reach the same speed that it would if the wings didn’t contain the corpses of bugs.

Using NASA Langley’s HU-25C Falcon aircraft, the team tested eight different coatings during takeoffs, landings and low altitude flights. Each flight had an engineered coating attached as well as an uncoated surface, which acted as a control.

“We fly controls and assume that if the other surfaces were not coated, they would get the same density of bug strikes,” Mia Siochi, a materials researcher at Langley, said in a statement.

What the researchers found was that the coated wings had fewer splats on them when compared with the non-coated surface. They also found that there was less sticky matter on the coated wings, minimizing the disruption of the air flow.

It is unlikely that we will see these coatings anytime soon on commercial flights though, as the best coatings will have to undergo tests that put them through the most gruelling of environmental conditions.

“We have to get through that hurdle of practical application of these materials,” Siochi said.

So no cheaper flight prices for the near future then!

[Image via FineArtAmerica]