Future Airplanes

Aircraft · 5 min read · Feb 23, 2022
future airplanes

New developments in aviation always pursue increased efficiency and reduced environmental impact.

For the industry, this has become a must because aircraft have been considered one of the worst enemies of the environment due to their carbon footprint.

Therefore, many top players like Airbus, have been working on developing new technologies and aircraft designs to achieve those objectives while staying profitable.

But, how can they make it? If you are curious about the possible solutions for future aircraft, keep reading this guide as we share the most recent achievements.

The present commercial aircraft

Most commercial aircraft flying now have a fuselage that represents a dead weight that needs to be lifted and pushed through the skies. To achieve this, big wings and powerful engines are required.

The bigger and heavier the fuselage, the bigger the wings and the more power is needed from the engines, resulting in more fuel consumption.

Current technologies in alternative energies have been tested in the pursuit of less fuel consumption. However, such technologies are not the most suitable for big aircraft, meaning that airliners, as we know them now, would disappear if there were no other alternatives.

Fortunately for all of us who love flying, this does not have to become a reality as aircraft solutions are being developed as you read this. Let’s see now what are those possible solutions.

A commercial aircraft takes off in the sunset from an airport in green fields.

Solutions tested by the aviation industry

Experts at Airbus have been working on new alternatives for future aircraft to be more efficient and environmentally friendly. And they are not the only ones, as there are other organizations and institutions with legitimate interests working on solutions.

Most of the solutions are focusing on aerodynamics, such as the design of the aircraft’s wings. However, this is not the only area of interest, since there are organizations like Rolls Royce and Siemens which are trying to develop electric motors in partnership with aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing.

However, any radical design comes with some challenges. For example, while market research may show that future aircraft reducing the carbon footprint of the industry may be the top priority, comfortability may also come atop the list, and this could be an issue with a complete redesign.

Another important issue may be the disruption of a stable supply chain. Airbus assemble their airplanes with parts made in different regions of Europe to take advantage of the expertise each manufacturer has to make the corresponding components, but this would not be possible with some new designs.

Therefore, the organization may need to take this important aspect into account, something they claim has already been included in the design process.

With this in mind, let us show you the most recent developments of each organization.

Airbus and future aircraft

The Maveric

Airbus has been working on an aircraft called Maveric. This is a remote-controlled blended wing aircraft design the company has been testing. While Airbus has performed tests on a 3-meter wide-scale model, the new blended wing design could be what the future aircraft needs.

Airbus claims that this concept has great potential as the whole airframe provides lift, meaning it could be scaled up to a lighter and smaller airliner, but with the capability of carrying the same payload.

The Flying V

Airbus is also involved in a project with the Dutch airline KLM and the Delft University of Technology. The project is called the “Flying V”, and it consists of a design that resembles an arrowhead and integrates the fuselage with the wings as a single element where passengers and cargo could be carried.

The main advantages of the “Flying V”, according to the designers, is that it can achieve 20% more efficiency than current airplanes, and it could be cheaper to build than the blended wing design of the Maveric because it could be made in parts.

A successful test was already done with a scale model of this concept consisting of a 9ft wingspan drone. However, when the successful flight was coming to an end, the model experienced a tough landing due to aerodynamic wobbling which resulted in damage of the front landing gear. Nevertheless, the designers are already analyzing data from the test to work on preventing this problem.

Finally, it is important to highlight that Airbus is also working on the development of hybrid-powered designs. Their hybrid designs are seeking to use hydrogen for the following purposes:

  • Powering hydrogen-gas-burning turbine engines.
  • Generating electric power with hydrogen fuel cells.
A concept design of a future aircraft called the Flying V made by the Delft University of Technology and KLM airlines.
Image source: tudelft.nl

Boeing and future aircraft

Of course, Airbus top competitor could not be left out of this process. They have been working for a long time on a design that may not be as radical as the design of the Maveric, but it is one that Boeing claims will consume 9% less fuel per flight.

The plane design called the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing seems to be the same as a conventional airplane, but it would fly on much longer on thinner wings braced by a support, or truss, angled up from beneath the fuselage.

Boeing says the design includes the possibility of folding the wing to avoid trouble when accessing the gates at current airports, so there would be no need to rebuild airport terminals for this kind of an airplane.

Because the concept Boeing presents is less radical, it could become a reality sooner than others.

Lockheed Martin Future Aircraft

Box Wing Jet

This is another aerospace organization presenting their own concepts for future aircraft. A concept called Box Wing Jet is claimed to provide a carrying power to front resistance rate higher than 16% meaning reduced fuel consumption while flying longer distances. This concept is expected to become a reality by 2025.

Supersonic Green Machine

Another flying innovation by Lockheed Martin in cooperation with NASA is a concept called Supersonic Green Machine.

Following its name, it is expected to reduce nitrogen-oxygen pollution by 75% while improving efficiency thanks to it being powered by variable-cycle engines that allow switching to conventional turbofan mode during landing and takeoff.

While resembling the infamous Concorde, this concept places the engines under the wings and shows off a nice Bonanza-like V tail, features that allow avoiding the sonic booms which led to the Concorde being banned. This concept is expected to become a reality by 2030.

There might be other ideas being developed, but most of them are so radical that it may take decades to see them materialize, as there are may be questions that have not been answered yet.

And speaking of questions, here are some common questions people ask about future aircraft.

A prototype model of an aircraft being held by a man standing on a green hill.

Future aircraft FAQs

What is the future of planes?

Future jets will set new standards for airspace in the coming decades and will provide the necessary infrastructure for a smoother air travel. The aviation industry has been working for several years to improve aircraft performance and to reduce pollution. So, future aircraft designs are expected to provide a solution to these problems by integrating alternative energies with better aerodynamics.

How fast will planes fly in the future?

The supersonic flight could be a reality very soon with the Supersonic Green Machine and Boom Overture. But there are also expectations to achieve hypersonic speeds. This means that a future plane could reach Mach 4 or even 5, flying at a speed of about 5,000 km/h or even faster.

What is the future of air travel?

Supersonic flights may eventually be the most popular mode of transportation for air travel. As air traffic continues to grow, more airlines may collaborate to create supersonic and green aircraft.

Final thoughts

We are grateful you have stayed with us until this point, and we hope you have a better idea about future aircraft.

If you want to learn more about aviation, we invite you to keep reading our guides where we share knowledge on different topics or take the next step and enroll in one of our courses.

Of course, do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. We’ll be glad to help you.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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