By Rose Eveleth
Posting in Design
Airbus turns to science to design the cabin of the future.
The last time you boarded a plan you probably frantically shoved your carry on into any overhead space you could find, squashed your legs into the seat and tried, desperately, to fall asleep. Air travel, for most of us, isn't exactly the lap of luxury. But Airbus wants to change that. They've released images of what they're calling a "concept cabin" - the airplane cabin on the future.
The Smithsonian writes:
The concept plane, which they hope resembles the real Airbus models of 2050, takes biomimicry as a guiding principle for the design of forms and materials. The most noticeable aspect of this approach is in the fuselage, which, instead of being wrapped in opaque steel, is composed of a web-like network of structural material that looks a bit like a skeleton. In fact, that’s exactly what it should remind you of, because it’s inspired by the bone structure of birds.
And, if the biomimicry doesn't do it for you, the production process might. Much of the frame might be printed, rather than fabricated, using 3-D printers. The electrical system will be networked through the plane to respond to climate conditions and operate wirelessly. But wait, there's more! Smithsonian:
All of these strategies—the lightweight structure, waste-free manufacturing, and wireless electrical systems—can contribute to reductions in emissions and fuel use. The cumulative effect of using fewer resources for each plane could result in a massive overall improvement in aviation’s environmental impact. In that vein, the Airbus concept plane is one of the few instances (at least for now), where the term “organically grown” refers not to food, but to seating. The seats of the plane will potentially be composed of plant-based biomaterials which go a few leaps past memory foam toward smart materials that form to and remember the body’s optimal position.
But the coolest thing about this future airbus, is that it would totally change the experience of flying. No more staring at the back of the seat in front of you, or, if you're lucky, out a tiny porthole window. The future airbuses are full of huge spaces to see through both above and below you. "It’s almost enough to make you forget you’re trapped inside a pressurized container six vertical miles above your home planet" Smithsonian writes.
Not recommended for those with a fear of heights, I'd say.
Via: Smithsonian Magazine
Aug 19, 2012
A wide body aircraft with 6 across seating & wide aisles will not be seen in economy class for the foreseeable future. With seats crowded together in both length & width, reclining is limited & rotation is out. Composites will continue to displace aluminum for fuselage skins. Current composites are opaque. Transparent 1s will eventually be practical but likely at a higher price. Car like visibility will only offset cramped conditions to a degree.
This is enough to give agoraphobia, much less -fear of heights-, to EVERYONE who flies! Many would have their stomachs tied in knots for the entire flight, even those travelers who are used to flying!!
another extrapolation of current technology to a future unconstrained by a reality of scarce or expensive transportation energy. Aviation will more likely be a hobby of the 1% crowd by then, if even them.
The article intro talks about finding space for one's carry-on. I read the entire Airbus 2050 brochure looking for any new ideas on handling baggage - carry-on or other types. I found nothing. Did I overlook it?
Once the future of airplanes was the flying Edsel... I can't see such a thing ever getting into the air. The tech [i]might[/i] be possible in 40 years, and if it is, I can see it be used on executive jets but not on commercial routes. If it was built on such a scale, it would have about the same relationship to commercial airlines as the cruise liners have to ferries. The dreamers should talk to the engineers. The airlines don't much care about passengers; those that want to fly, fly; the choices are limited and the fares are gravy to the airlines. It's cargo that pays the bills. They need the pax to justify their landing rights and route priorities. Curious: if the comms and display tech were so advanced, everyone on the airplane would have their own virtual environment device. Why not just interrface that to the plane and forget the info screens? Then there's the sinister side: right now I have to worry about maintenance competence, crazies with guns, and mad bombers. Who's going to approve an airplane into service which could fail from a virus infection - informational or biological? Just thinkin'
Airbus planes are historically trouble prone from the get go. Having said that I do not believe this type of plane will ever be made. There is nothing wrong with dreaming!
Ask the Wright Brothers, with what we have today tooling around the skys, they would probably say "Anything's Posible?" ...
All that room, not going to happen, society run by corporations does not equal a brighter future just more of the same.
Why the seats of the plane are always facing the direction of flight? Should be the opposite direcction? For security reasons they should face the opposite direction
Of course all of this assumes that the airlines are economically feasible in the future as our fuel economy paradigm changes dramatically - an assumption that is increasingly questionable today based on most mass balance analyses. One immediate question that comes to mind is - if you've actually gotten 3-D printing costs down to affordable levels far below today's - and that you have a transparent (polymer) structural material structurally capable of replacing the aluminum and titanium (highly doubtful) aircraft skin (BTW there is very little steel in the airframe) which is highly doubtful, then why wouldn't you print the transparent skin and airframe simultaneously instead of separately as shown? This would be far stronger than a separate frame and skin, and if all the material was transparent - you would achieve a higher degree of transparency and an even less claustrophobic environment. All in all the concept shows either totally unsupported optimism on an energy and materials basis, or a total ignorance of our finite resource limited future.
...how corporate-run airlines would differ from any other type. I'm interested. Most people buy airfare based almost exclusively on price, and the industry services that market by maximizing cost/seat-mile. That means cramming as many people into as little space as possible. For that reason alone, the above scene will remain a fantasy.