Future airports to launch planes with a "slingshot"

While more convenient and enjoyable than long distance trips by road or rail, flying is one of the most carbon heavy ways to travel. 

Not only does flying come a long with a hefty footprint, flying also allows us to travel more, and to more distant places. This flexibility may be great for our tans, but it’s creating a massive amount of climate-change accelerating greenhouse gas emissions.

In an effort to make flying a more eco-friendly option, aviation company Airbus recently announced its vision for airports, and planes, of the future. 

By the year 2050, the company predicts that airplanes of the future will “be catapulted into the sky, fly in formation like birds along “express skyways” and glide into airports with their engines turned off.”

It’s all part of Airbus’ “Smarter Skies” initiative, an ongoing project that “looks beyond aircraft design to how the aircraft is operated both on the ground and in the air in order to meet the expected growth in air travel in a sustainable way.” 

The latest installment of this series focuses on five specific innovations that could drastically reduce the industry’s carbon output:

* Eco-Climb: Aircraft launched through assisted takeoffs using renewably-powered, propelled acceleration will allow for steeper climb from airports to minimize noise and reach efficient cruise altitudes more quickly.

* Express Skyways: High-frequency routes would also allow aircraft to benefit from flying in formation like birds during cruise bringing efficiency improvements due to drag reduction and lower energy use.

* Free-Glide Approach and Landings: Free glide approaches into airports would lower emissions during the overall decent and reduce noise during the steeper approach as there is no need for engine thrust or air breaking.

* Ground Operations: Super-accurate landings allow autonomous clean-powered taxiing carriages to be ready, so aircraft can be transported away from runways quicker, optimizing space and reducing delays.

* Greener Fuel: Use of biofuels and other renewable fuels would necessitate the development of regionally-sourced renewable energy close to airports, feeding both aircraft and infrastructure requirements sustainably.

According to this review, “Airbus predicts that if the air traffic management systems on board aircraft were successfully optimized, the aviation sector would save 9 million tons of fuel a year and 28 million tons of CO2 emissions.”

Want to see what these highly intelligent aircraft would look like on the inside? Download the Airbus Concept Cabin App on iTunes.

* Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling