Airplanes are the newest and quickest form of passenger transportation. Every day, designs are made for a plane with a more streamlined body, a more affordable design, a faster engine. It is important that we learn about new flight technologies emerging over the horizon; the inspired child of today may be the innovator of the future.
Listed here are five new and emerging aeronautic technologies or ideas that could become "the next big thing" in tomorrow's world.
The SpaceShipOne (SS1) and White Knight
The "Super-Jumbo" Plane
Related interactive activity: Air Taxi Game
What's the idea? The objective was to build a craft that could do the first sub-orbital space flight.
When could it happen? It already did - on June 21, 2004 with pilot Mike Melvill.
How does it work? The White Knight takes off into the sky, carrying below it the small SpaceShipOne. Once high enough, the ship detaches from its carrier and there is a brief pause before it launches up further and further into the atmosphere. Finally reaching 100 km, the rocket plane is officially well off the earth and in space. It is the first craft of its kind to make it into space: no other airplane before it had reached such an altitude. After launching into space at three times the speed of sound, the SpaceShipOne is ready to make its re-entry trip. It rolls onto a regular runway. The pilot in this manned-vehicle steps out of his pressurized cabin and makes history.
That's the short story of the SS1 and its carrier the White Knight jet. The aircraft truly did make it into outer space and experienced the weightlessness that accompanies such altitudes.
Why do people need it? The SpaceShipOne itself is not designed for space tourism, it is only the first successfully tested model of such an aircraft. Bigger versions with larger passenger capacity could be built
What's the idea? A four to eight seat passenger plane and a Personal Air Vehicle that can hop between small airports in an efficient way.
When could it happen? Research is being done by NASA and it will probably come out soon. The researchers predict that within 15 years, the amount of people riding air taxis will double and within 23 years the figure will triple.
How does it work? Air taxis are planes that can hop from one little airport to another. It might be affordable to the public and efficient to have smaller planes and airports. These "air taxis"would use all electric engines. It is an alternate way to create safe and affordable aircraft transportation.
Why do people need it? This is an alternate solution to the rising demand for air travel. Service of small, safe airplanes is beneficial because it could reduce air congestion that can lead to flight delays, among other problems.
What's the idea? This double-decker plane includes a 555 passenger holding capacity, a lounge, showers, and a gym.
When could it happen? It could happen fairly soon. Researchers are working on it now and have the design.
How does it work? A380 is a plane that is designed for heavy travel routes and long distances such as London to Singapore. It is bigger than the modern jumbos and can hold many more people
Why do people need it? It is Airbus’ solution to the rising demand for high-capacity air travel.
What's the idea? A plane uses a hypersonic engine to travel distances in a very short amount of time.
When could it happen? This technology might be available in a few decades.
How does it work? Scramjet is actually short for supersonic combustion ramjet. These planes have an engine with no moving parts that compresses air to ignite fuel. The hypersonic engines let the plane travel at speeds much faster than any other engines currently available. These engines can operate at Mach 5 or 5 times the speed of sound. One test model of NASA flew successfully at almost 7000 mph, an amazing Mach 10. The plane, called the X-43A, has more airplane-like maneuverability than rockets. This gives it affordability, safety, and flexibility.
Why do people need it? Hypersonic jets would be used for reduced flying time and more efficient flights. With the hypersonic engines, space tourism could eventually become available to ordinary people, not just the extremely rich.
What's the idea? The IFCS (Intelligent Flight Control System) is a plane with "self-learning" flight control software
When could it happen? The technology has been studied in the past few years; systems could be implemented when the technology is perfected and proven safe.
How does it work? The IFCS incorporates self-learning neural networks that help it adapt to change. This means it has adaptive controls that adjust themselves and "learn" as the plane is flying. In the event of an accident, the software could help to control the aircraft.
The system immediately compensates for any changes in aircraft stability. It assists the pilot in the event of failure. The technology could be used in passenger planes as well as in combat and in unmanned vehicles.
Why do people need it? Systems like this could prevent tragic airplane accidents and be a major improvement on flying safety.
NASA's X-43A scramjet: http://www.nasa.gov/missions/research/x43-main.html
SATS 2005 (Small Aircraft Transportation Systems) site, dedicated researching and publicizing to interconnected small airport systems: http://www.sats2005.com/home.html.
NASA's site on Small Aircraft Transportation Systems: http://sats.larc.nasa.gov/main.html.
Scaled Composites - the creator of the SS1 White Knight - website: http://www.scaled.com/index.html
Coren, M. (2004, July 14). Private craft soars into space, history. CNN. Retrieved February 17, 2005, from http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/06/21/suborbital.test/index.html
Intelligent Flight Control System. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2005, from NASA Web site: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/news/FactSheets/FS-076-DFRC.html
Rincon, P. (n.d.). Future of flight: The shape of things to come. BBC News. Retrieved December 12, 2003, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3294343.stm#startcontent Scaled
Scaled Composites (n.d.). SpaceShipOne [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved February 17, 2005, from http://www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/data_sheets/PDF /Posterboard%20-%20SpaceShipOne.pdf
Scaled Composites (2005, January 14). Space Ship One and White Knight photo gallery. Retrieved February 17, 2005, from http://www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/gallery/flight_general
Thompson, E., Henry, K., & Williams, L. (2004, November 16). NASA News . NASA News . Retrieved February 17, 2005, from http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2004/nov /HQ_04373_x43a_scramjet.html