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6 Amazing Technologies That Will Change the Way You Fly
By Shay Meinecke,
Make Use Of, 18 September 2015.

Traveling is about to get a whole lot better. The future of air travel looks fast, entertaining, and even comfortable!

While today’s travels are often thought of as a little cramped, noisy, and boring, the travel of tomorrow will be an experience all its own.

Airlines have begun to listen to consumer demand and it seems that passenger satisfaction is top priority for airline companies, which is good news for every traveller.

1. Inflight Comfort

First, let’s talk about what really matters to most of you - how comfortable you are while in the air. Lighting, elbow and leg room, inflight entertainment, noise - all of these matter and they’re all about to get addressed.

The British firm BAE Systems has created the IntelliCabin, a high-tech cabin system designed for full function and comfort.

Anything you want or imagined for inflight entertainment will be provided, because, as Jared Shoemaker, director of Cabin Systems at BAE Systems, says,
“IntelliCabin…helps to acclimate and ease you into a more comfortable atmosphere throughout the flight, helping you to feel more refreshed on arrival.”
The IntelliCabin is set to be on many commercial airlines soon, and is described by BAE Systems as an “in-seat power, LED lighting, wireless tablet-based in-flight entertainment, and dimmable windows, all managed via a centralized attendant control panel, or a crew handheld device.”

2. Speed & Duration

Wherever you’re going, you probably want to get there as fast as possible. And if you can afford a trip aboard the Spike S-512 Supersonic Jet, you can travel much faster.

The jet is expected to be made available to business-class passengers around 2020 and will supposedly fly at speeds of “Mach 1.6, 450 miles per hour (mph), faster than any other civilian jet.” Their site explains that a trip to London from New York City or from Paris to Dubai will take only around 3 hours, which is significantly shorter than the current 7 or so hour flights.

The US-based aerospace engineering and design firm says the luxury airliner will carry around 12 to 18 passengers and (what) will cost US$80 million or so to become the world’s fastest airliner. You can imagine a ticket for a trip on this plane will cost a pretty penny.

Carbon Footprint

The future of flight doesn’t have to be expensive or hurt the environment. Pioneering aviation engineers have been looking at ways of creating a cheaper, more eco-friendly air tech in a number of unique ways.

3. One Way, Electric Motors

Electric motors are a huge part of this plan, as batteries can be charged from green sources. In contrast, there's no way to completely eliminate the carbon emissions from a jet engine.

Two pilots recently flew across the English Channel in planes powered solely by electricity, which can be seen as a huge milestone for the future of air technology.

The planes, while running on lithium batteries and not on fuel, released zero emissions during their flight.

And while both planes are tiny, Chief Technical Officer Jean Botti told The Associated Press at a Paris Air Show,
“Our objective here is to make a hybrid-electric hundred seater for the future.”
One day, we could all be on-board an electric plane and not have to worry about our carbon footprint.

4. Going A Little Farther with Electric Planes

Credit: NASA

US-based government agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been working on upgrading electric planes with a redesigned wing, which is meant to be more aerodynamic.

Matt Redifer, a chief engineer for NASA’s Scalable Convergent Electronic Propulsion Technology Operations Research (SCEPTOR) project, in an interview with Discovery News says,
“We are looking at the whole system, instead of just replacing engines with electric motors, we are looking at a design that couples electric propulsion with a redesign of the wing.”
The redesign, which may look old-fashioned, is meant to propel the plane farther with better lift and propulsion. The idea is that the redesigned wings (and more powerful, electric motors) will be used for bigger planes and longer journeys in the near future.


5. Solar Impulse II

Another huge milestone in aviation was also reached recently when a solar powered plane was used to fly from Japan to Hawaii.

The solar powered plane, dubbed Solar Impulse II,  uses lithium-ion batteries, which are now damaged and have delayed the “Round the World Solar Flight” till April 2016, four electric motors, and a whole bunch of solar cells.

The solar impulse website claims that the planes are able to fly day and night without a single drop of fuel, which “demonstrate[s] that clean technologies and renewable energies can achieve the impossible.”


6. Flying Without a Pilot?

Thinking outside of the box, commercial aviation companies have envisioned a future with robot pilots. And although this future has already been realized with military tech and industry revolutionizing drones, commercial aviation hasn’t attempted to use this technology. Until now.

An R2-D2-like robot has been built by DARPA - Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The robot, known as an Aircrew Labour In-Cockpit Automation System, or Alias, has been developed to augment human piloting.

This means, the machine, which acts as a “co-pilot,” can perform twists and turns, take-off, and land just like a pilot. But, the idea isn’t to replace the pilot.

In an interview with the New York Times, Jessica Duda, program manager for Aurora Flight Sciences, one of the Alias developers says,
“What we would like to do is use the humans for what the humans are really good at and the automation for what the automation is really good at.”
This could mean safer air travel. The automated machine can be used during routine flights and during emergencies, which can happen when a pilot becomes incapacitated or is forced out of the cockpit, which supposedly happened during the Germanwings tragedy.

Living in the Future

Not only is the future of air travel bright and comfortable, the future of air travel is faster, more eco-friendly, and safer. Aviation experts all over the world are putting their ideas together and achieving what may have been considered impossible a few years ago - traveling around the world using only the power of the sun, no emissions, flying without a pilot - all important steps towards an even better air traveling experience in the near future.

Top image: The Spike Aerospace S-512 Supersonic Jet. Credit: Spike Aerospace via Vimeo (video screengrab).

[Source: Make Use Of. Edited. Some images and links added.]