Deflated Inflatable Wing

June 2019 - August 2019

The Never-EVER Land 2 (NEL2) is an aircraft design based on the NEL1 but with inflatable wings to the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. The NEL1 was designed to fly a lengthy 2-3 year mission on Titan, due to particular atmospheric conditions including the density of the atmosphere allowing the aircraft to glide while losing little altitude. The inflatable wings were added to increase stowage volume, as the wings can be deflated and folded to save room, then inflated later.

Two different wings were constructed: the rectangular wing Electriwing Mk. 1 and the swept wing Phoenix. The Electriwing Mk. 1 was simply an inflatable rectangular wing attached to an Electristar RC plane, while the Phoenix was built entirely from scratch, wing and fuselage. The Phoenix was a proof of concept prototype meant to prove the viability of a swept wing design of an inflatable wing. The Electriwing Mk. 1 had a NACA 4318 airfoil, and included baffles inside it made of the same fabric, 200 Denier Oxford fabric with a single sided polymer coating. The wings were shaped by heating up one side of the fabric to another side with a heating iron, allowing the fabric to bond to itself. Servo motors were attached to the Electriwing Mk. 1 as well as ailerons made of balsa wood.

Diagram of Rectangular and Swept Wings

Both designs were considered successes. The Electriwing Mk. 1 was thoroughly tested, and even survived a crash unscathed with the RC plane being destroyed, demonstrating its durability. The Phoenix was not meant to fly, and served its purpose of being a proof of concept and prototype.

Team members include Omar Abouzahr, Meghana Fathepure, Tim Nelsen, Daniel Tikalsky, and Nicco Wang, along with assistance from Andrew Cole, Dr. Ben Loh, and Dr. Jamey Jacob at the Unmanned Systems Research Institute.

Publication: Conceptual Design of an Inflatable-Winged Aircraft for the Exploration of Titan

The Swept Wing Plane Inflatable Wing Comparison Rectangular Wing on Plane