Wing tip devices are simply designed airfoils that improve a wing’s lift-to-drag ratio. Through this combination of increased lift and reduced drag, an aircraft can fly more efficiently with the net result being more economical fuel burn. Wing tip devices were first created in 1897, a British engineer named Frederick Lancaster created wing tip devices called wing end plates to improve the aerodynamic characteristics of the airfoils he designed (Air force Studies Board, 2007). Through the years, designers created wing tip devices in many different shapes and sizes; each design has its own advantages, with some providing the most benefit in cruise, while others optimize takeoff and climb performance. In the United States, winglets have been extensively researched and tested by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States Air force (USAF), the U.S. Navy, and many large aircraft manufacturers. Just about every large commercial passenger and cargo aircraft have some type of wing tip device, and it is expected that most future aircraft will also incorporate wing tip devices.
The term wing tip device encompasses a whole family of devices that includes standard winglets, blended winglets/Sharklets, raked wing tips, Hoerner wing tips, non-planar wing tips, wing tip fences, and hybrid wing tips/Split Scimitar winglets, (see appendix A for picture descriptions).
Wing Tip Devices and Aerodynamic Efficiency
Since man’s first powered flight was accomplished by the Wright brothers, on 17 December 1903 at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, the quest from that day forward was to design aircraft that were capable of flying higher, faster, and further. Through the years, designers have created aircraft and airfoils in many different shapes, sizes and weights, and they have used various materials. Designers have used materials ranging from wood and canvas, to aluminum, to titanium, and now advanced composites. A few common threads that most aircraft designers have had in mind through the years were, building aircraft out of lighter and stronger materials, and creating aircraft that are more aerodynamically efficient. The airplane was indeed one of the greatest inventions known to man in the 20th century, and is still continuously evolving through the limitless imagination of the aircraft designer. This limitless imagination also yields advancements in all facets of technology, and directly contributes to the conquest of designing aircraft that fly higher, faster, and further. Wing tip devices are one of the greatest aerodynamic enhancements to modern aircraft design and they have provided significant contributions to improving the aerodynamic efficiency of modern aircraft. In this research, we will discuss the history of wing tip devices, modern wing tip devices, how wing tip devices enhance aircraft aerodynamic efficiency, and the future of wing tip devices.
History of Wing Tip Devices
As mentioned earlier, a British engineer...