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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies
providing enhanced flight efficiency and maneuverability without conventional rudders or other macroscopic control surfaces. These MEMS-based active aerodynamic flight control vehicles (MACs) could exploit advances in microscale sensors and actuators in combination with information technologies to provide local feedback control. Vehicle surfaces would rapidly sense and change airflow boundary layer conditions, a capability now possible with micromechanical devices and continuously increasing computing power. Such control strategies might reduce, on average, the turbulent nature of aerodynamic flow, leading to laminar flow vehicles with dramatically greater range-payload capabilities than those of current aircraft. The implications for air combat support, global reach, and reduced overseas footprint could be significant. A second aspect would be the ability to manipulate boundary layers to generate large forces and moments for flight control, possibly supplementing or replacing large-scale control surfaces while reducing weight and increasing maneuverability. The possible mission implications of MACs would appear to be worth exploring in concert with the advancement of micro- and nanotechnologies.
FINDING AND RECOMMENDATION
Finding T8. Four overarching themes emerge from the advance of micro-and nanotechnologies—increased information capabilities, miniaturization, new engineered materials, and increased functionality/autonomy. These themes could have a significant military impact by enabling new systems approaches to Air Force missions.
Recommendation T8. The Air Force should continue to study new systems opportunities that may emerge from the successful development of micro-and nanotechnologies and use these studies to help focus its applied research and development investments in these technologies.
1. Joint Chiefs of Staff. 2000. Joint Vision 2020. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
2. Office of the Secretary of Defense. 2000. Space Technology Guide FY 2000–2001. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Secretary of Defense, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence); Director, Defense Research and Engineering.