The Airbus concept plane
Future-gazing by Airbus created radical blueprints for concept planes and aircraft interiors. Learn more about the technologies and innovations that will make these concepts a reality and step into an engineer's dream…
Technological advances featured in the Airbus concept plane
Longer and slimmer wings better glide through the skies, as the flow of air over the wing surface reduces drag and in turn, improves fuel efficiency.
New lightweight 'smart' materials sense the load they are under, making for a lighter aircraft that draws less fuel and curbs emissions.
New manufacturing methods will reduce the cost and environmental impact of building the aircraft despite the new advance materials and complex shapes.
Engines will be more reliable, quieter and fuel-efficient. The positioning of the engines, at the rear and semi-embedded, fully optimises the aircraft for lower fuel burn. The engine placement also boosts cabin comfort through decreased noise levels. The engines can be incorporated into the aircraft body because technological advances will have reached such a level that superior engine reliability will diminish the need for immediate access to its components.
The fuselage (central body of the aircraft) is no longer a simple tube but is curved and shaped to provide more internal space for various cabin configurations, with better aerodynamics outside to improve flight. The fuselage and entire aircraft structure is manufactured entirely from composite to take advantage of the easy-to-shape characteristics of the material.
Entrance/exit doorways are double doors to allow for faster, easier boarding.
The empennage (tail section of the aircraft) is U-shaped, acting as a shield to reduce external noise pollution. The concept plane does not use a vertical tail, as seen on the planes of today. Vertical tails are required when engines are installed on the wings as they provide directional stability in case of engine failure. The engines of the future will have no risk of failure, eliminating the need for a vertical tail.
The electrical system will continuously monitor its own state of health, anticipating any need for maintenance and automatically scheduling this well in advance. Electronics and other systems on board will be entirely self-sufficient, requiring minimum to zero maintenance.
Getting the balance right
The Airbus Concept Plane brings together a package of technologies, which although feasible, are unlikely ever to coexist in this manner. So it is not a plane that will fly, but it stretches the imagination of engineers, it highlights some of the challenges and decisions that lie ahead for air travel, and it illustrates the main technologies being explored in anticipation of the future needs of passengers and their planet.
The Concept Plane is unique because it can bring together different technologies, without having to worry about the impact of one on the others - so it represents the best of all worlds.
In reality engineers have to find the best balance of technologies, depending on what the priorities are.
So for example, Chart 1 shows that if you introduce new technology that improves fuel burn, emissions and the passenger experience, the performance on noise, costs and productivity may be reduced.
Did you know?
"We surveyed over 10,000 people around the world who will be passengers in 2050 to ask what they want from the aviation industry in the future.
Their message was clear – we need to help as many people as possible share in the benefits that air transport brings, but we need to achieve this while looking after the environment."