In this paper, the proof of concept of a smart rotor is illustrated by aeroelastic simulations on a small-scale rotor and comparison with wind tunnel experiments. The application of advanced feedback controllers using actively deformed flaps in the wind tunnel measurements is shown to alleviate dynamic loads leading to considerable fatigue load reduction. The numerical method for aeroelastically simulating such an experiment is described, together with the process of verifying the methods for accurate prediction of the load reduction potential of such concepts. The small-scale rotor is simulated using the aeroelastic tool, load predictions are compared with the wind tunnel measurements, and similar control concepts are compared and evaluated in the numerical environment. Conclusions regarding evaluation of the performance of smart rotor concepts for wind turbines are drawn from this threefold research investigation (simulation, experiment and comparison). Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.