Air travel is in a period of great change. With the rapid pace of innovation, airlines and airplane makers are working hard to keep up.
For the most part, the airlines and the companies that make their planes are not all that well equipped to react quickly to change. A new plane takes more than a decade to put into service and it’s designed to keep flying for several subsequent decades.
Usually, a major industry-wide overhaul to passenger experience happens once every decade or two. We are currently in such a generational shift. Innovations such as new composite-bodied airliners liked the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350, as well as technologies like satellite-based internet and geared turbofan engines, come to mind.
But that doesn’t mean the industry is fresh out of cool stuff. In fact, the pace of development and innovation is only quickening in its pace.
Like the automotive industry, airplane makers and the people who fly their planes understand the need to unpeg the development of aircraft hardware and software. An industry once bound by the limits of flying metal is heading towards a future where software is growing in importance.
The Stunning airplanes of the future:
1. Hypersonic travel
Electric planes might deliver quiet, eco-friendly air travel, hypersonic flights get you to your destination fast.
In 2015, Airbus patented a hypersonic jet capable of reaching 4.5 times the speed of sound. The design patented by Airbus shows an aircraft powered by a combination of turbojet, ramjet, and rocket motor.
Modern jet engines, for all of their refinement and efficiency, still run on kerosene. But one day, kerosene may be replaced by biofuels. While it isn’t as revolutionary as electric propulsion, biofuels represent a step in the right direction towards cutting down on greenhouse emissions.
3. Electric propulsion
Over the past century, piston power has given way to turbine power. The next frontier is electric power. And the amazing part is that electric aircraft aren’t far away.
In 2014, Airbus debuted its all-electric E-Fan demonstrator aircraft. The two-seat test plane is powered by two electric motors each powering a variable geometry fan.
In the past decade, the check-in process has gone from paper printouts to app-based QR codes. But in the near future, all we’ll need is to simply show up. That’s because the next step in the evolution of the airport experience is biometrics.
5. Autonomous flight
From day one, pilots have been an integral part of the flying experience. However, as technology has progressed, systems once designed to assist pilots are beginning to verge towards replacing them. For short distance flights, testing of pilotless flying taxis is currently underway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Major aviation players seem to be working on this as well.
6. The new Boeing 777X
The new Boeing 777X will be the world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet, unmatched in every aspect of performance. With new breakthroughs in aerodynamics and engines, the 777X will deliver 10 percent lower fuel use and emissions and 10 percent lower operating costs than the competition.
A true family, the 777X offers low-risk, profitable growth, industry-leading reliability and seamless integration with the 777 and 787 Dreamliner families for even more flexibility. But performance is just part of the story. With a spacious, wide cabin, new custom architecture and innovations from the 787 Dreamliner, the 777X will deliver the flight experience of the future.