The Future of Aviation?

What will the aviation industry look like in 2030?  2040? You can bet it won’t be what we’re used to today.  Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic Airways, put it this way: “I have no doubt that during my lifetime we will be able to fly from London to Sydney in under two hours, with minimal environmental impact. The awe-inspiring views of our beautiful planet below and zero-gravity passenger fun will bring a whole new meaning to in-flight entertainment.” 1
The following are some of the innovations in the works around the world that will help make the industry more fuel efficient, safer and eco-friendly, while meeting the needs of the air traveling public.

Redesigning Commercial Aircraft Means a Greener Future for the Aviation Industry

Shabtai Hirshberg2, a recent graduate from the Transportation Design MFA program at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, MI, published his thesis, Redesigning Commercial Aircraft, which was based on extensive research on the commercial aviation market. The result was innovative aircraft with revolutionary improvement, forward thinking design, future technology that were all incorporated into possible future commercial aircraft design. Marc Brownlow3 brought Boeing’s commercial airplane concept design to life, featuring large windows and communal viewing decks to “enhance the spectacle and romance of flight. The airplane itself becomes a destination, setting Boeing apart from its competitors.” But will it make it off of the drawing board?

How about this? The three-story tall Sky Whale can carry 755 passengers, has virtual reality windows and self-healing wings

It has three decks, tilting Harrier-style jets and breaks itself up into pieces during a crash landing to protect the passenger cabin – and could be the future of air travel. Called Sky Whale, the concept airplane is set to be bigger than an Airbus A380, look like a spacecraft and has ‘self-healing’ wings that repair themselves. Designer Oscar Viñals4, who is based in Barcelona, said the Sky Whale would be built out of advanced new materials made up of ceramic or fiber composites. It would have advanced ‘active wings’ powered by a hybrid turbo-electric propulsion system making them much more efficient than today. The Sky Whale would have a double fuselage, increasing fuel efficiency and would have micro solar cells on the wings so that it could draw electrical power from the sun. According to Viñals, the engines could tilt to up to 45 degrees meaning they could land and take-off on runways that would normally be unable to service larger passenger/cargo aircraft.

Futuristic Biplane Design Eliminates Sonic Boom

Sonic biplane
A throwback to early 20th century aviation may hold the key to eliminating the sonic boom – at least according to researchers at MIT and Stanford University.5 Strongly reminiscent of biplanes still in use today; the researcher’s concept supersonic aircraft introduces a second wing, which it is claimed cancels the shockwaves generated by objects near or beyond the sound barrier. In fact, the idea is not a new one. The idea of a biplane to negate the sonic boom was proposed in the 1930s by aviation pioneer Adolf Busemann6, also responsible for the idea of swept-wing aircraft.

A Very Fast Vertical Takeoff Plane concept

Manta VX 58 VTOL aircraft
The “XV-58 Manta” very fast Vertical Takeoff plane, designed by students at the Georgia Institute of Technology7, has won the American Helicopter Society (AHS) International competition. The XV-58 Manta is a ‘manned fan-in-wing craft’ that looks much like a manta ray, with two fixed pusher props in the tail and can fly three times faster than most helicopters—it has a cruising speed of just over 300 MPH! Boeing’s AH-64 Apache has a cruising speed of just less than 175 MPH. The design is scalable, currently able to handle two pilots and a flight engineer, while a larger model on the horizon could also carry 19 passengers with a maximum takeoff weight of just over 24,000 lbs.

Small Commercial Efficient and Quiet Air Transportation for 2030-2035

Possible commercial aircraft to be used in the future

NASA has awarded a $1.97 million, 18-month contract to a team led by GE Aviation8 that will seek to identify a vision for aviation in the 2030-2035 timeframe that could change the paradigm of air travel and positively influence the economic well-being of suburban communities.

New Public Transport of the Future: Monster Plane

As commercial aircrafts get larger and more fuel efficient and the demand from tourism increases, the quad deck Monsterjumbo by Phil Pauley demonstrates design-driven innovation. The Monsterjumbo is the latest stunning concept from the internationally renowned Design and Innovation Consultancy Phil Pauley Studios9, visualized by Pauley Interactive. His designs and concepts are all about looking into theoretical trends in technological innovation to predict future capability, typically between 5 -20 years into the future.

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1 Branson quote: The Future of Aviation: Airline Leaders’ predictions (01/01/14) USA Today
2 Shabtai Hirshberg, Redesigning Commercial Aircraft Means a Greener Future for the Aviation Industry (2014) Tuvie Image credit: Shabtai Hirshberg
3 Marc Brownlow, Boeing Cirrus Jet concept art 2011 Coroflot Image credit: Marc Brownlow
4 Oscar Viñals, Sky Whale, (11/03/13) Behance Image credit: Oscar Viñals
5 James Holloway, Futuristic Biplane Design Eliminates Sonic Boom (03/19/12) Image credit: Tohoku University
6 Dr. Adolph Busemann (1901-1986), Busemann Advanced Concepts Laboratory, University of Colorado
7 Mark Devlin, (08/24/14) Industrial Equipment News Image credit: Georgia Institute of Technology
8 Green Car Congress, NASA Awards Future Commercial Aircraft Research Contracts (10/01/08) Image credit: GE Aviation
9 Phil Pauley Studios, Monster Jumbo (2011) Image credit: Pauley Interactive

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