Preventing Bug Splatter Could Save Airlines Billions On Fuel

Image courtesy of Wesa

When you’re flying through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, every little bit of wind resistance can result in the use of additional fuel. So if there’s a way to stop aircraft from becoming covered in dead bug goo, it could end up saving the airline industry a lot of money.

Bloomberg reports on new airplane technology being developed by NASA that would prevent dead bugs from clinging to jet surfaces, reducing drag and improving fuel efficiency.

NASA says it has wind-tunnel tested dozens of materials on Boeing 757 wings and has whittled it down to two options that it is preparing to make commercially available. But even the best of those two options only prevented around 40% of blug splatter from clinging to the wings.

While NASA admits that more work needs to be done, any improvement of the airflow could result in noticeable fuel cost savings. The space agency contends that wing design can be tweaked to take advantage of the bug-less surface, resulting in a fuel efficiency improvement of more than 1%.

That might not seem like a lot, but that would be an annual savings of more than $300 million in the U.S. alone. Not to mention the environmental benefit of using less fuel and emitting fewer toxins into the air.

Boeing has already begun designing surfaces to cash in on the new material, which takes some of its inspiration from the water-repelling lotus leaf.