Categories: Technology

What Will Airplanes of the Future Look Like?

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Will aircraft of the future look something like this? Project NACRE (New Aircraft Concepts Research) has this wide-body aircraft in mind for future flyers, designed for long-haul flights and able to accommodate up to 750 passengers. Measuring 65 meters long, 19 meters high with a wingspan of nearly 100 meters, the maximum take-off weight of the simulated flying wing is roughly 700 tons. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been performing flight tests to simulate and study the flight characteristics of large ‘flying wing’ configurations to prepare for future aircraft designs, using special airplane called ATTAS (Advanced Technologies Testing Aircraft System) research aircraft that has special software and hardware that can mimic the flight characteristics and performance of an entirely different aircraft.

What are some other future airplane concepts?

Airbus' fantasy plane. Credit: Airbus

Airbus has this concept in mind – called a fantasy plane – that could be more fuel efficient because of its long, curled wings, a U-shaped tail, and a lightweight body. This could be the way planes look in 2030, Airbus says, and will have advanced interior systems, and be much quieter than current aircraft.

Boeing Icon II concept design. Credit: NASA/Boeing

This supersonic aircraft concept by Boeing is nicknamed Icon II has V-tails and upper surface engines, and can carry 120 passengers in a two-class, single-aisle interior, and can cruise at Mach 1.6 to Mach 1.8 with a range of about 5,000 nautical miles.

Boeing's SUGAR Volt will use considerably less fuel, reduce noise and take off from short distances. Credit: Boeing

Another concept from Boeing is the SUGAR Volt – which includes an electric battery gas turbine hybrid propulsion system – can reduce fuel burn by more than 70 percent and total energy use by 55 percent. This fuel burn reduction and the “greening” of the electrical power grid can greatly reduce emissions of life cycle carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Hybrid electric propulsion also has the potential to shorten takeoff distance and reduce noise.

Airplane or flying fish? This is one is called Smartfish.

This one is called the SmartFish, and utilizes a “lifting body” design, which means that the entire aircraft works to provide lift, rather than just the wings. The concept for this plane is a slender shape and composite material construction, which means less drag, and thus less thrust required for flight. The wing and fuselage form one integrated, futuristic-looking design. This plane can fly without slats, flaps, or spoilers, meaning increased fuel efficiency. See more on the SmartFish website.

Those are just a few concepts being tested and designed for the future of flight. You can read more about NASA’s work on the future of aeronautics here.

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

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