This report comes in two parts. In Part II of the report we investigate the future of flight – in 2075 and beyond.
Aerospace engineers must navigate a turbulent zone where technology and economics combine to compete with physics. Aerospace research calls and competitions produce ever more ingenious ideas for aircraft design and technology.
In this section of the report we focus on a selection of developments that do have the technological and initial research impetus to turn them into real-world alternatives for the airline industry.
The examples in the report are largely US-led but, crucially, the UK currently has world-leading expertise relevant to them.
If the UK is to maintain its position as the world’s number two aerospace sector, it needs to be an attractive technology hub for the sector. The technologies involved in taking these aircraft into production hold the long-term key to our future commercial success.
The concepts can be split into the following groups:
Subsonic technologies - those that travel slower than the speed of sound - include blended wing body design, where the wing blends smoothly with the plane’s wide tail-less fuselage thus making the plane more efficient and less noisy; NASA's N+3 program to develop aircraft that meet specific energy, efficiency, environmental and operation goals; as well as projects like MIT's 'Double Bubble' aircraft, where two aircraft bodies are fused together.
Supersonic technologies, those that travel faster than the speed of sound, include Boeing and Lockheed Martin's N+3 concepts for aircraft that carry more than 100 passengers at cruise speeds of more than Mach 1.6 and a range of up to 5,000 miles.
Hypersonic technologies, that travel more than five times the speed of sound, include scramjets developed by the likes of Nasa, Pratt & Witney and QinetiQ.
Commercial Aircraft could be configured in a V-shaped, echelon formation with following aircraft when at cruise, giving them a drag reduction and lift advantage from the airflow generated by the aircraft in front.
Read the press release:
Institution welcomes government commitment to aerospace manufacturing