How planes of the future might look

Bisarbeat: Engineers have developed a concept plane which they believe, might be similar to passenger planes in 40 years time. However in the past futurologists have been wide of the mark, with predictions of jet packs, flying cars, and cities in the sky. Rajan Datar investigates whether, in the year 2050, we are really likely to be flying in transparent aeroplanes powered by solar energy. Apart from evolutionary improvements in conventional aircraft, revolutionary changes are possible when the "rules" are changed. This is possible when the configuration concept iteself is changed and when new roles or requirements are introduced. The following details give some idea of the range of concepts that have been studied over the past few years, some of which are currently being pursued by NASA and industry. Blended Wing Body  The BWB design is intended to improve airplane efficiency through a major change in the airframe configuration. The thick centerbody accommodates passengers and cargo without the extra wetted area and weight of a fuselage. Orginally designed as a very large aircraft with as many as 800 passengers, versions of the BWB has been designed with as few as 250 passengers and more conventional twin, podded engines. Joined Wing
The joined wing design was developed principally by Dr. Julian Wolkovitch in the 1980's as an efficient structural arrangement in which the horizontal tail was used as a sturcural support for the main wing as well as a stabilizing surface. It is currently being considered for application to high altitiude long endurance UAVs.
Oblique Flying Wing One of the most unusual concepts for passenger flight is the oblique wing, studied by Robert T. Jones at NASA from 1945 through the 1990s. Theoretical considerations suggest that the concept is well suited to low drag supersonic flight, while providing a structurally efficient means of achieving variable geometry. Airbus has revealed concept photos of its vision of what a passenger jet might look like in 2050. Now the futurists Airbus have turned their attention to inflight entertainment and the cabin experience for passengers in such jets.
The "biomimetic" frame of the Airbus Concept Plane, as it is known, is inspired by the super-lightweight bones of birds - though the company isn't quite sure yet what it might make this bone-inspired material from. Airbus cabin designer Tobias Mayer says it could be a 3D-printed - and largely hollow - titanium based material that the firm's parent, EADS, is becoming adept at manufacturing at its Additive Layer Manufacturing lab in Filton, UK. With a criss-cross structure it will supposedly allow some kind of bird-strike-resistant dimmable glass to be used as the exterior skin - giving passengers the astonishing ability to see everything outside.
Airbus envisages its plane having many different zones - because by 2050 budget air travel will have been abolished (along with economy seats) - and there'll be no more squeezing-as- many-seats-in-as-possible. "Passengers in 2050 could join an interactive conference, enjoy a game of virtual golf, or read the kids back home a bedtime story whilst watching the planet spread out beneath their feet,".
It doesn't end there. Morphing seats will sense the tension in your body using an intelligent neural network, allowing the seat to morph and conform to your body shape - and no matter how obese the population gets by 2050, these seats will be able to cope, Airbus promises. You'll get "vitamin and antioxidant-enriched air, mood lighting, aromatherapy and acupressure treatments".
New Roles and Requirements In addition to new configuration ideas, new roles and requirements for aircrafrt may lead to new aircraft concepts. Some of these are summarized below.Pacific Rim Travel As global commerce continues to increase, the need for passenger and cargo transportation grows as well. Many have speculated that growth in pacific rim travel may be the impetus for high speed aircraft development. The time required for flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo varies with cruise Mach number. (The somewhat facetious Mach 8 aircraft requires extra time to cool off before passengers can deplane.)
Supersonic transportation (Boeing High Speed Civil Transport Concept)
Ground Effect Cargo Tranport Concept
Vehicles designed for missions other than carrying passengers include military aircraft with new constraints on radar detection (low observables), very high altitude aircraft, such as the Helios solar powered aircraft intended for atmospheric science and earth observation studies, and vehicles such as the Proteus, designed as a communications platform.
Low Observables (B2 Bomber)
Autonomous Air Vehicles (Pathfinder: a prototype for Helios solar UAV)
Halo Autonomous Air Vehicle for Communications Services (an AeroSat)
Finally a new class of air vehicles intended to provide lower cost access to space is under study. The near-term future of such designs depends on the economic health of the commercial space enterprise and it presently appears that these concepts are not likely to be seen soon.
Access to Space
Conclusions: (1) Improved understanding and analysis capabilities permit continued improvement in aircraft designs (2) Exploiting new technologies can change the rules of the game, permitting very different solutions (3) New objectives and constraints may require unconventional configurations (4) Future progress requires unprecedented communication among aircraft designers, scientists, and computational specialists. Source: Bisarbeat

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