Future aircraft developments
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A number of ideas are being worked on for future aircraft developments. Some are new, some have been tried before but may prove more practicable with modern technology. History tells us that many of these projects will come to nothing, but a few will set new standards in the future.
Radical aircraft designs
- Blended wing body designs date from the early postwar era. Research on updated designs is under way at Boeing and Cranfield University
- In addition to blended wing body designs, Flying wing-designs also offer similar benefits and have had interesting new technologies as counter acting airbrakes (folding open both above and under the wing) .
- Lifting body designs are similar to flying wing designs with the difference that is a wing without a conventional fuselage. Some airplanes such as Smartfish are equipped with this design, hereby no longer needing flaps, slats or spoilers.
- Airplanes can also be foreseen with lighter-than-air gases such as helium or hydrogen. These gases may be placed in extra wings, such as with the Bauhaus luftfahrt boxed wing aircraft.
- The AeroVironment SkyTote fixed wing, VTOL aircraft is another type of radical rethinking on aircraft construction. It focuses on building an aircraft that has moderately good VTOL properties as well as the flight advantages of a regular fixed wing aircraft.
- The Peebles Fanwing is a new approach to lift, and is benefiting from investment by the UK and Italian Governments.
- Another radical new aircraft design that is being relooked for the environmental advantage it can bring are flettner airplanes
- L/P Driver is a Lift and Propulsion System being developed by Velarus , providing utility and transport designs with near ground operation similar to helicopters while capable of jet speeds at altitude, including the possibility of supersonic design.
- Solar hot air balloons and solar hot air airships are new types of balloons and airships.
New engine technologies
- The Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan which will allow the Fan and LP Turbine to each operate at optimum speed providing increased fuel efficiency and reduced noise.
- Electric airplanes are being developed and tested under projects as the E-flight initiative.Range is still limited with these airplanes though.
- Boundary layer suction has long been a subject of research. The technique works, but has traditionally consumed so much power that it was not worth doing. The necessary internal ducting is another problem. Work continues at TU Delft.
- Aircraft may be foreseen with special fuselages which make advantage of the wing-in-ground effect. The aircraft includes airships, helicopters and airplanes.
Through the field of bionics, new aircraft designs with far greater agility and other advantages may be created. This has been described by Geoff Spedding and Anders Hedenström in an article in Journal of Experimental Biology. Similar statements were also made by John Videler and Eize Stamhuis in their book Avian Flightand in the article they present in Science about LEV's . John Videler and Eize Stamhuis have since worked out real-life improvements to airplane wings, using bionics research.
This research in bionics may also be used to create more efficient helicopters or miniature UAVs. This latter was stated by Bret Tobalske in an article in Science about Hummingbirds . Bret Tobalske has thus now started work on creating these miniature UAVs which may be used for espionage. UC Berkeley as well as ESA have finally also been working in a similar direction and created the Robofly(a miniature UAV)and the Entomopter (a UAV which can walk, crawl and fly).
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Published - July 2009
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