Airbus is making public its thinking on the airliner of the future at the Farnborough International Airshow currently underway in southern England. The company says the design images are “more than a flight of pure fantasy” and illustrate what air transport could look like in 2050 – “even 2030 if advancements in existing technologies continue apace.”
Airbus experts in aircraft materials, aerodynamics, cabins and engines came up with the design that they believe will meet the expectations of the passengers of the future, the company says in a media release. Th design features ultra long and slim wings, semi-embedded engines, a U-shaped tail and light-weight “intelligent” body that improves environmental performance or “eco-efficiency”. “The result: lower fuel burn, a significant cut in emissions, less noise and greater comfort,” Airbus says.
Charles Champion, Executive Vice President Engineering at Airbus, says the “Airbus Concept Plane represents an engineer’s dream about what an aircraft could look like in the long term future. It’s not a real aircraft and all the technologies it features, though feasible, are not likely to come together in the same manner. Here we are stretching our imagination and thinking beyond our usual boundaries. With the Airbus Concept Plane we want to stimulate young people from all over the world to engage with us so that we can continue to share the benefits of air transport while also looking after the environment.”
Robin Mannings, a leading futurologist, adds in the media release that most people “want reduced traffic congestion – both on the ground and in the sky – together with improved comfort for a better travelling experience. By 2050, we’ll also expect seamless access to a plethora of technology and applications. And ‘flexibility’ will become the new mantra for air travel, with us as passengers choosing levels of speed or luxury in cruise ships of the sky.”
Further futuregazing by Airbus shows blueprints for radical aircraft interiors. In “The Future by Airbus” the company talks of morphing seats made from ecological, self-cleaning materials, which change shape for a snug fit; walls that become see-through at the touch of a button, affording 360 degree views of the world below; and “holographic projections of virtual decors, allowing travelers to transform their private cabin into an office, bedroom or Zen garden!”
Green energy sources like fuel cells, solar panels “or even our own body heat” might provide energy for powering some systems on tomorrow’s aircraft. As aeronautics engineers continue to use nature as a source of inspiration, some of these aircraft may even fly in formation like birds to reduce drag, fuel burn and therefore emissions.
Beyond nature, Airbus is looking to the passengers of 2050 themselves for inspiration as the company enters its next 40 years of innovation, the company adds in its media release. Friday is Future’s Day at the airshow, with a programme of activities to engage young people. Airbus is running focus groups to ask the next generation what they want from air travel. The same day, registration opens for Airbus’ “Fly Your Ideas” – a global competition challenging University students to develop new ideas for a greener aviation industry. The winners will share the top prize of € 30 000; the runners-up €15 000.