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Sitting inside one of the historic wind tunnels at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, a three percent scale prototype of the X-48C, a new, quieter, more fuel-efficient aircraft design, undergoes tests. "The blended wing body is a hybrid shape that resembles a flying wing, but also incorporates features from conventional transport aircraft," NASA explained. "This combination offers several advantages over conventional tube-and-wing airframes. The BWB airframe merges efficient high-lift wings with a wide airfoil-shaped body, allowing the entire aircraft to generate lift and minimize drag."

To explore the structural and operational advantages of the new aircraft, NASA has partnered with Boeing Research & Technology in Huntington Beach, California, and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. If all goes as planned, the new shape will increase fuel economy while also creating a larger payload area for cargo and/or passengers in the central body over other aircraft. "NASA and its industry partners have been investigating the blended wing aircraft concept for potential use as a future air transport for both civilian and military applications," according to NASA.

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Image: NASA.

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