Controlling aircraft aerodynamics Designers and engineers have always tried to optimise the aerodynamics of aircraft to improve their performance and increase efficiency. New research is taking this a step further with the development of technologies that actively influence air flow around planes as they fly. Industrial Technologies © Thinkstock Air transport has a high environmental impact and dramatic improvements are needed to improve the sector's sustainability. Researchers are looking at how to increase aircraft performance whilst cutting their energy and pollution effects. A promising avenue is to find innovative technologies that influence air flow using simple actuators. The EU-funded 'Useful plasma for aerodynamic control' (PLASMAERO) project investigated the use of plasma devices that offer a number of advantages. These include simple manufacture and construction, and the possibility for real-time control at high frequencies. Experts from leading European research institutes and manufacturers worked together to test how dielectric barrier discharge and spark discharge plasma actuators can control aircraft aerodynamic flows. Numerical and experimental studies helped the team to better understand how these devices influence air flow and to identify the most promising configurations. Subsequent wind tunnel tests showed how the plasma devices could improve the aerodynamics significantly in terms of lift, lift/drag and high lift noise during take-off, cruise and landing. Their investigations also considered how to integrate the actuators on a flight platform in real-world atmospheric conditions. The project brought together expertise and identified the focus of future research efforts in this area. The partner collaboration initiated by the project has continued since the project finished at the end of 2012. The next generation of aircraft needs to be significantly more efficient than the current state of the art, and PLASMAERO technologies will help to bring in a new era of greener flying.