Jim Scottowner of component solutions experts Artemis Aerospace, explains how he sees aircraft design evolving in the future
WITTON, England, April 7, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Ever since the golden age of air travel began with BOAC’s 44-seat Comet 1A in 1952, the jet aircraft has been a ubiquitous device in our skies that has thrilled enthusiasts and created convenience and safety that transcends other forms of transportation.
Although few fundamental characteristics have changed since the 1950s, jet engines have continued to improve in power and efficiency with modifications to the fuselage, cockpits, and engines, among other key adjustments.
Indeed, two of the most popular and oldest aircraft in service – the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320 – have seen many variants since their launch in the 1960s and 1980s respectively. However, the basic concept has remained the same: to provide safe and economical air transport.
Propel into the future
Efficiency has been a key factor in the constant efforts to improve and update aircraft. Low-emission engines, improved aerodynamics and an increase in composite materials have all been key in this quest, helping to reduce fuel consumption and increase efficiency.
Further efficiency improvements are expected to continue in the near future. For example, Boeing’s latest aircraft, the 777X, used composite fan technology, composite wing construction and folding wingtips to counter the necessary design adjustments that resulted in a dramatic increase in the size of the aircraft. aircraft engine and wings.
However, while engine size and wing design make a difference in creating more economical aircraft, more drastic changes will be required when it comes to aircraft propulsion.
Aviation is now entering an era of renewable energy sources with biofuel, hydrogen and battery technology all being explored and developed.
Commercial flights currently account for around 2% of global carbon emissions and around 12% of transport emissions, according to data from the Air Transport Action Group. The aviation industry’s goal is to halve it by 2050.
As things stand, biofuels are already being used and blended with traditional jet fuel at a ratio of up to 50/50 – the maximum allowed under current fuel specifications. However, Boeing has already committed to making planes that fly on 100% biofuel by 2030 and the company even staged the first commercial flight in 2018 using 100% biofuel on a FedEx Corp 777 freighter. challenge will be procurement. Significant market development is required to reach the levels required by the aviation industry if Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) goals are to be achieved.
Battery-powered aircraft are also progressing. As early as 2010, the Swiss company Solar Impulse built an electric-powered aircraft that could run on solar power during a 26-hour test flight.
Airbus also began its electrification journey the same year, pledging to develop the world’s first all-electric four-engine aerobatic aircraft, CriCri. Since then, the manufacturer, in partnership with Siemens and Rolls-Royce, has made significant progress, launching its E-Fan X – a hybrid-electric aircraft demonstrator – in 2017.
In fact, it’s likely, given the complexities of aircraft electrification in the short to medium term, that hybrid aircraft are more likely to become mainstream.
Hydrogen is hailed as an important route to creating zero-emission aircraft. Whether used to power a fuel cell or burned directly, the only waste is clean water. More importantly, hydrogen offers three times more energy per unit mass than conventional jet fuel and more than a hundred times that of lithium-ion batteries. Governments and businesses are now investing in this potential.
In April 2021, CaliforniaThe six-seater Piper M-Class from start-up ZeroAvia took off from Cranfield Airport in the UK. Backed by the UK government, this maiden flight sparked the next steps in the journey to zero carbon aviation.
In September 2020Airbus has announced its ZeroE project, unveiling three concept aircraft that it aims to be ready for deployment in 2035.
However, questions remain about the feasibility of hydrogen. While hydrogen offers more energy per unit mass, the energy density of liquid hydrogen is only about a quarter of that of jet fuel, which means that to produce the same amount of energy, it requires a storage tank four times larger. Obviously, this has consequences for aircraft design and passenger capacity, ultimately affecting the commercial viability of such an aircraft.
According to the Air Transport Action Group, the most likely scenario is that the direct use of hydrogen will be marginal and that SAF will be a game-changer in the “zero emissions mission”.
The future of the cockpit
Next-generation avionics design is increasingly oriented towards the IoT (the Internet of Things). In November 2021Honeywell has unveiled Anthem – a revolutionary, fully integrated cockpit that was designed with advanced connectivity in mind.
Anthem offers extensive customization options for OEMs, intuitive touch controls and smart prompts, and enhanced fleet management capabilities through anytime, anywhere data analytics.
Security is also at the heart of Anthem’s design. For example, its engine out function will automatically guide pilots to the nearest airport, taking into account important differentiating factors such as terrain and wind. Its landing assistance, meanwhile, will provide aid in the event of a pilot’s medical condition, offering guidance to an airport before switching to pilot control 200 feet from the centreline.
Existing autopilot systems are fully capable of flying aircraft from takeoff to landing. However, it is unlikely to become a popular option for passenger aircraft, especially in an emergency.
Despite this, unmanned planes could save airlines $35 billion per year. Pilot shortages also pose huge challenges, especially since many pilots have been laid off or have been laid off during the pandemic.
Airbus said the technology to safely operate autonomous aircraft now exists. However, its introduction into commercial fleets depends on regulators and passenger reaction.
Without pilots on hand, who on board will call emergency landings due to medical emergencies or disruptive passengers?
Fly into the future
Advances in innovation must go hand in hand with commercial viability. While tackling carbon emissions is hugely important, people’s desire to travel and buy goods should not be overlooked.
Passenger numbers will continue to rise and the love affair for all things online is unlikely to fade any time soon, making freight and logistics an ever-growing and important part of the airline’s ecosystem. ‘aviation.
Looking to the future, the aviation industry is beginning to ask how it can meet the challenges faced by urban environments, such as traffic congestion. For example, the electric-powered Lilium Jet from Munich – a five-seater air taxi with the ability to take off and land vertically. It is believed that it could start operating as early as 2025, carrying passengers on the roofs.
Whatever the outlook, aviation remains at the forefront of cutting-edge, thought-provoking design that inspires and advances engineering. What is undeniable is that the majestic profile and graceful beauty of today’s commercial jet aircraft is one of mankind’s most revered and respected engineering achievements.
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SOURCE Artemis Aerospace