The move to green up the airline industry is heating up. The recent gas prices have been fueling the fire and environmentalists are fanning the flames. Rising fuel prices and looming airline emission standards are forcing an industry known for it's high emissions and low profits to start cleaning up their act. Currently they are working on lighter more fuel efficient planes, bio-fuel planes, and more efficient air traffic controlling that won't leave planes circling for so long. Unfortunately these changes will take time and many argue that because they are motivated by money and not a concern for the environment their commitment to reducing emissions is not sustainable. Fear not, there are some out there that are truly concerned with the future of flight and our planet and they are doing some interesting work (actually you probably should fear some of these ideas)...
We can always look to MIT for the next break through and in the realm of eco-aviation they are hard at work. Using the ideology that planes could have a greater freedom of travel (shorter routes) if their noise was reduced (less restrictions). “Half of the noise from a landing plane comes from the airframe.” To help reduce sound they strive to decrease landing and take off speeds by creating greater lift with the single “flying wing” approach. Their design would also eliminate any section of the wing that is hinged, such as flaps, to reduce drag and frame noise. A variable-size jet nozzle would allow the craft to alter its propulsion dynamics to allow for slower take off and landing but allowing cruising flight to remain efficient. More Info
Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies and the German Air and Space Center created Hyfish unmanned air vehicle. Powered by a one kilowatt pressurized hydrogen fuel cell weighing just over 6lbs. The power to weight ratio achieved along with the astounding aerobatic stunts performed at 125mph proved the HyFish and its technology is a green force to be reckoned and is paving the way to cleaner passenger air travel. More Info
This more down to earth plane of the future was developed by Boeing and was the first manned aircraft to be flown on fuel cell technology. Although quite small (54ft wingspan) and slow (62mph) the Dimona is a two seat motor-glider that runs on Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell and lithium ion battery. Test flight duration was 20 minutes…baby steps people, baby steps! More Info
Designed by Roland Cernat using Cradle to Cradle ideology the Oriens Motor Glider uses “bionic” looped winglets for efficiency, recyclable and sustainable materials such as a flax bio-compound, light weight Y tails with less mass and equal lift to traditional T designs, collapsible propeller for efficient gliding, and of course some solar panels. To top it off the entire glider is designed to be disassembled and repurposed. More Info
The Zephyr by QinetiQ is an UAV (unmanned air vehicle) that currently holds the world record for longest unammed flight at 54 hours. The High Altitude Long Endurance craft is a light weight carbon fiber that is solar powered by United Solar Ovonic’s amorphous silicon arrays and Sion lithium-sulfer batteries. Reaching altitudes of over 58,000 feet the intention for UAV HALE technology is military surveillance however the intense research and applied success could trickle down to consumer level advances in air transportation. More Info
This eco-rocket would leave the Concorde in its carbonless dust. The A2 Concept hyper jet designed by Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines would travel up to Mach 5 (3,400mph) using a liquid hydrogen Scimitar engine that emits ZERO greenhouse gases. It would be 143 meters long (twice the size of any existing jumbo jet), would carry 300 passengers, and surface temps on the aircraft body could reach 1000 degrees Celsius. Now to keep it from melting. More Info
The “Manned Cloud,” designed by Massaud Studio and ONERA, the center of French aerospace research, is a flying hotel with 60 rooms that could circumnavigate the globe in three days. Flying around 175mph and filled with helium the idea is to travel to the farthest reaches of the globe with zero emission and in luxury with all the amenities of a world class hotel like a spa, library, restaurants, and fitness center. Very thoughtful as your float over countless impoverished peoples. More Info
CleanEra (Cost-effective Low Emissions And Noise Efficient Revolutionary Aircraft) suggests that flying saucers could be potential eco-friendly aircraft of the future. Etnel Straatsma project director at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands wishes to meld engine, fuselage, and passenger space into one efficient wing, or disc, to minimize drag, noise, and weight. That, with their intention to add earth friendly materials and biofuels, maybe CleanEra aren’t a bunch of space cadets. More Info
Like smaller, lighter, more efficient cars built to transport individuals, comparable design ideology can be applied to flight. The Strap On Rocket Powered Personal Helicopter is light the Ford Fiesta of air travel. Small, light weight, and wicked reliable! By shedding excess pounds commonly found in the form of a fuselage, the strap on chopper is bare bones travel using the necessary fuel to move only you and the engine strapped to your back. Safety features are not eco-friendly!