Welcome Guest. Sign in or Signup

5 Answers

Can a laser stall a wing?

Asked by: 2706 views Aerodynamics

So I saw this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16415007 Its more of a physics question I guess but this is good a place as any for people with aerodynamics in their background. Can a laser really stall a wing? My thoughts are hot air is less dense but I dont know that flowing air could be heated fast enough at a temperature below where aluminum would start to fail. Plus with JET-A inside.. Maybe that's why its listed as mooted.

Ace Any FAA Written Test!
Actual FAA Questions / Free Lifetime Updates
The best explanations in the business
Fast, efficient study.
Pass Your Checkride With Confidence!
FAA Practical Test prep that reflects actual checkrides.
Any checkride: Airplane, Helicopter, Glider, etc.
Written and maintained by actual pilot examiners and master CFIs.
The World's Most Trusted eLogbook
Be Organized, Current, Professional, and Safe.
Highly customizable - for student pilots through pros.
Free Transition Service for users of other eLogs.
Our sincere thanks to pilots such as yourself who support AskACFI while helping themselves by using the awesome PC, Mac, iPhone/iPad, and Android aviation apps of our sponsors.

5 Answers

  1. Bill Trussell on Jan 11, 2012

    Interesting concept but I would first question the use of the term “non-lethal” in this context.  Making an aircraft wing sall has some sevre consequences to the other aircraft.  It would be necessary to overheat the wing structure so that it would create a distrubed airflow on its own, not heating the air around the wing which of course is constantly changing.  Also, it would be hard to imagine heating a wing to such a degree without affecting the fuel in that wing, also not non-lethal.
    I would think they would be better off seeking funding of this concept as a de-icing tool rather than a weapon, but that’s just me!  Also need to consider the fool proof nature of aiming such a device and only hitting the wing and not the crew?  Also not non-leathal.
    Overall I would rate this one as a “no” on the pracital scale.

    +2 Votes Thumb up 2 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes

  2. Best Answer

    Paul Tocknell on Jan 11, 2012

    Well, there is this related patent application that has some more information:


    I’ll let you read the text (because I would do a horrible job of explaining it) but apparently it is theoretically possible to “seed certain frequencies” that would cause an unstable air flow around the targeted airfoil.  By controlling where these frequencies are seeded, I guess you could externally control an airplane.  


    +3 Votes Thumb up 3 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes

  3. Nathan Parker on Jan 11, 2012

    The article says nothing about stalling a wing, only forcing it to change direction.  While I would be surprised if it had no effect, I’d also be surprised if it could overome the action of ailerons.

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes

  4. Jeff on Jan 11, 2012

    Given that there currently exist laser which can heat an object to several times the temperature of the sun in a few trillionths of a second, it wouldn’t surprise me if it were possible to superheat the air over a moving aircraft wing sufficiently to effect control. I can imagine a system whereby short laser pulses directed over the wings could result in fairly effective control of the aircraft.

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes

  5. Derek Schwalenberg on Jan 11, 2012

    OK, yes, I did sort of assume [and I know what that stand for] it was stalling one wing based on the picture in the article and the fact that it said disrupting airflow. That got me thinking stall. That patent link makes the intentions somewhat more clear.. Now I am even more intrigued though, pulses and frequencies.. ” wherein the succession of laser pulses is applied to one or more targeted positions along the leading edge of the control surface”

    +2 Votes Thumb up 2 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes

The following terms have been auto-detected the question above and any answers or discussion provided. Click on a term to see its definition from the Dauntless Aviation JargonBuster Glossary.

Answer Question

Our sincere thanks to all who contribute constructively to this forum in answering flight training questions. If you are a flight instructor or represent a flight school / FBO offering flight instruction, you are welcome to include links to your site and related contact information as it pertains to offering local flight instruction in a specific geographic area. Additionally, direct links to FAA and related official government sources of information are welcome. However we thank you for your understanding that links to other sites or text that may be construed as explicit or implicit advertising of other business, sites, or goods/services are not permitted even if such links nominally are relevant to the question asked.