Airbus Fantasy Plane Meets Star Trek

airbus-ed01On the subject of air travel and reducing its carbon footprint, or flyprint as I have decided I like to call it, I wrote yesterday about Boeing’s lower emission 787 Dreamliner. For all its improvements environmentally and in passenger comfort, it still looks more or less like airplanes look these days. But Airbus has unveiled a concept airplane that they say could be in the plane of the future as early as 2030. Artist renderings of Airbus’ “fantasy plane” were revealed at the just concluded Farnborough Airshow.

As soon as 2030, we might be flying in a new, more efficient aircraft with long, curled wings, a U-shaped tail, and a lightweight body — if manufacturer Airbus develops the “fantasy plane” it unveiled today at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK. The concept aircraft is more fuel efficient, boasts advanced interior systems, and, best of all, it’s quieter.

Their hopes for this plane include some pretty different but intriguing ideas. They include “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 [could be cool or kinda freaky]…and holographic projections of virtual decors, allowing travelers to transform their private cabin into an office, bedroom or Zen garden.”

airbus-ed02It sounds and looks more like something out of Star Trek’s later incarnations than what we see in our skies now. It almost sounds more like travelling on a flying movie set than on an airplane.

But best of all are some of the green advancements for this, at present, concept plane. “Energy sources like fuel cells, solar panels or even our own body heat might provide energy for powering some systems on tomorrow’s aircraft.” The envisioned plane would have “a light-weight ‘intelligent’ body all to improve the plane’s environmental performance or ‘eco-efficiency’ [and be] designed to burn less fuel, produce fewer emissions, and create less noise – all in far greater comfort for the passenger.”

airbus-lead03It’s been reported the aeronautics engineers continue to look to nature for inspiration. That perhaps explains the different look of this airplane with its upturned wings for example. They’re even entertaining the notion that someday “aircraft may even fly in formation like birds to reduce drag, fuel burn and therefore emissions.” I can’t quite envision seeing such a mass of giant planes all at once like that. It sounds more like some gigantic version of small plane formations done at airshows.

Charles Champion, engineering executive vice-president at Airbus, emphasizes that “It’s not a real aircraft and all the technologies it features, though feasible, are not likely to come together in the same manner.” But then again, when Star Trek first came up with those communicators, who would have thought a relatively short time later we’d be living in a world of cell phones. It’ll be interesting to see what comes next.

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