Airspace Explorer is Airbus’ new dedicated cross-programme flight test platform for demonstrating new cabin technologies which could be featured in the future in all Airspace cabins, whether through line-fit installation or retrofitted into in-service Airbus cabins. Such technologies featured on board are currently in the prototype stage, and we’re using Airspace Explorer to test them on ground and in flight, as part of the technology development process.
The specially configured testbed aircraft is A350-900 MSN002, one of our three current A350 test aircraft used in our stringent certification flight test campaigns. Fitted with the award winning Airspace cabin, since 2019 the aircraft has successfully tested, showcased and helped to certify a number of customer-centric cabin innovations, which are focused on the four pillars of our Airspace passenger experience: Ambience Technologies; Comfort Innovations; Connected Services; and Sustainable Design.
Today in its role as the “Airspace Explorer” the aircraft hosts some interesting new sustainability-related features:
- The Eco-friendly carpet – this is manufactured with 100% regenerated nylon yarn and can be produced in any colour. The carpet itself can be recycled at the end of its lifecycle. The carpet provides unlimited possibilities to create unique aircraft interior designs by limiting environmental impact;
- Concave passenger windows are manufactured with a slight inward curve (concave) so that during flight the interior cabin air pressure ‘flattens-out’ the curvature so that the windows become flush with the aircraft skin – hence reducing drag, fuel burn and CO2 emissions;
- Electro-dimmable windows – this customer option provides effective almost total (more than 99.9%) sunlight-blocking performance, and because they replace traditional mechanical window shades, there is a significant weight saving throughout the aircraft;
- Connected galley features allow predictive catering and transparent inventory management through pre-ordering by passengers and usage data, thus reducing waste.
Connected services end-to-end connected IoT platform
The Airspace Explorer is also host to the industry’s first end-to-end connected IoT platform, bringing the “Internet of Things” to the aircraft cabin environment. This IoT platform links in real-time interconnected core cabin components (galleys, meal trolleys, seats, overhead bins, etc.), as well as allowing data exchange throughout the cabin for the crew, with real-time visibility from their PEDs.
One interesting example of new ‘connected’ innovation being tested on board the Airspace Explorer is the new wi-fi “Flex Display” technology. This is an ultra-thin and ultra-light cutting edge display technology, adapting to any cabin surface with minimum integration effort. Applied to the host surface like a ‘sticker’, it is the HMI (Human Machine Interface) of the future for both automotive and aeronautics.
This example, along with numerous other innovations on board the Airspace Explorer will help to deliver a more personalized travel experience, thanks to new services for the passenger while also enabling more efficient and sustainable aircraft operations and maintenance.
From evolving prototype innovations to eventual systems in-service
The story doesn’t stop here however. Airbus is continuously working with our customers and our industry partners to identify and develop the new technologies that will improve and define the future flying experience. In short, Airspace Explorer is the ambassador that will continuously evolve to explore new technologies as they become available, driving Airspace innovation and delivering leading passenger experience. So stay tuned!