Today, Airbus unveiled the latest part of its plan to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050, while making air travel faster, safer, and smarter.The details include five ideas that will make takeoff, cruising, landing, and getting around the airport easier and more fuel efficient.
Just how plausible and affordable these ideas are remains to be seen, but they are all worth a look.
The faster a plane can get in the air, the less noise it makes overhead and the sooner it reaches cruise altitudes, where flight is more efficient.
To accelerate takeoff without sacrificing aircraft size, Airbus is working on a renewably powered rolling platform that will tow the plane, so it hits the required speed to get airborne more quickly than if powered only by its own engines.
But it's actually not an entirely new idea--fighter jets already take off from aircraft carriers with the help of a catapult built into the deck.
It allows for shorter runways, obviously important on carriers at sea, and potentially at airports Airbus predicts may soon be pressed for space by expanding cities.
Once in the air, aircraft would be programmed to take weather conditions into account, to find the fastest and easiest route.
On high-frequency routes, jets could fly in formation, reducing drag and saving energy, much like birds, or Tour de France cyclists.
This proposal is less detailed than the others. Rather than use engine thrust to reduce speed during landing, aircraft could simply cut the power and glide onto the runway.
The result will be a slower, quieter approach, and reduced fuel use.
Airbus plans to use improved technology to find the best runway for an aircraft to land, minimising time on the ground.
Instead of taxiing using its own engine, a plane would be towed by an autonomous 'taxiing carriage,' powered by energy from renewable sources.
Airbus says it is researching the use of alternative energy sources such as clean electricity and hydrogen, to further reduce carbon emissions from aircraft and ground operations.
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