Airbus concept plane

Airbus has unveiled a new aircraft design, the Concept Plane, at the TEDGlobal 2013 conference currently taking place Edinburgh, Scotland.

Designed by a team of structural engineers at Airbus, the Concept Plane’s relatively lightweight design is based on the human skeleton structure and is expected to lower fuel costs.

The European aircraft manufacturer stated that the aim would be to 3D print the composite material which would result in the structure.

3D printing, which is also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of creating a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.

Other concepts for the future aeroplane include an upward curve on the tail in order to reflect engine noise upwards which in turn reduces noise pollution; wings that bend and move; and seats that mould to fit the size of the passengers.

According to Airbus, the aircraft would feature longer and slimmer wings as they reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency; new lightweight ‘smart’ materials’ that help lower fuel and curbs emissions; in addition to new quieter and fuel-efficient engines.

Unlike the the traditional cabin classes in the existing commercial aircraft, in the new cabins, business and economy class would be replaced by zones that cater to the individual needs such as relaxing, playing games, holding business meetings with people on the ground.

In addition, the aircraft would feature individual floating displays and integrated sensors that would monitor health, and there could also be a virtual gaming zone for passengers.

The engineers suggested that instead of small doors at the entrance, as in the existing jetliners, the future aircraft would feature wider entrances where passengers could leave their luggage, which would be automatically delivered to their seats.

Airbus engineer Bastian Schaefer was quoted by the BBC as saying that travelling in an aeroplane in the future should be affordable for both passengers and environmentally.

"The Concept Plane’s relatively lightweight design is based on the human skeleton structure."

However, he noted that the aircraft design alone would not solve the problems faced by the industry such as the shortage of aviation oil.

Some of these issues can be resolved using technology; however, the company is looking out for alternative fuels, Schaefer said.

A decade ago, it was suggested to use liquid hydrogen but the industry is still waiting for good storage methods for this, Schaefer added.

In addition to its new Concept Plane, Airbus also asked students from across the world to develop their own eco-efficient ideas for aviation, and has finalised five teams last week.

The ideas suggested by the teams include modifications to the engine, which is manufactured using special shape-shifting materials in order to alter airflow through the engine and lower noise pollution; as well as luggage floating on a bed of air and the use of methane as a source of energy.

Image: Airbus’s new vision of a Concept Plane. Image: courtesy of Airbus.

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