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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    Getting Ready for Disruptive Technologies

    Wednesday, 15 January 2014

    By Ben Iannotta

    Bold predictions flowed at an AIAA SciTech Forum session about disruptive technologies.

    Aerospace engineer Mark Moore of NASA’s Langley Research Center predicted that a 31-foot-long wing in development by engineers from Langley and the industry could prompt big changes in the airline industry. And relatively soon, he said, “within 10 years.”

    Twelve electrically driven propellers will be distributed across this LEAP span, which is short for Leading Edge Asynchronous Propellers. In October, the wing is scheduled to be attached to a tractor trailer and driven to a speed of 61 knots across the tarmac at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. The idea is to test the wing at takeoff and landing speeds without leaving the ground.

    If all goes as planned, the wing will be a first step toward new kinds of aircraft that are quiet and highly efficient for short flights. “I think this may change the way Boeing designs the 737, because someone is going to be able to beat that 737 that’s designed for 2,000 miles by designing a shorter range vehicle for four or five hundred miles, and just having incredibly low operating costs.”

    In the computing realm, fluid mechanics expert Daniel Bodony of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign predicted that researchers might have to re-write their software code to accommodate new, faster “exascale” computers. “These exascale computers are going to be wildly different. And that is causing a lot of people to be nervous,” he said.

    As for quantum computing, NASA computer scientist Rupak Biswas said these computers will never be used for simple problems, like three times five. “The quantum computer is going to be used to solve problems like, ‘What is 15 made up of?’” he said.

    It’ll be a long time before there is one in your back pocket. He said quantum computers are at a stage equivalent to where traditional computers were 60 to 70 years ago. “A baseball analogy – we have moved to first base,” he added.