Four years ago, NASA challenged the airline industry to conceptualize aeroplanes of the future that would be quieter, cleaner, and more fuel-efficient.
In April 2010, the space agency awarded three teams—led by The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman—contracts to study and test their designs for a 2030-era aircraft.
According to NASA, each aircraft had to “burn 50 per cent less fuel than aircraft that entered service in 1998, emit 75 per cent fewer harmful emissions; and shrink the size of geographic areas affected by objectionable airport noise by 83 per cent.
The concept designs could hit the skies by 2025, NASA says.
Ready to see what air travel of the future might look like?
This illustration from Northrop Grumman shows the process used by industry researchers to come up with design concepts that meet NASA's goal; many possible solutions are narrowed down to just a few.
Boeing's design features two vertical tails next to turbofan engines to reduce noise pollution. Long-span wings improve fuel-efficiency.
Lockheed Martin uses a lightweight box-wing design. Its engine has a bypass ratio (the flow of air around the engine compared to through the engine) almost five times greater than current engines.
This concept by North Grumman incorporates features of military aircraft into conventional aircraft design. The engines are tucked into the top of the wings to reduce noise.
Lockheed Martin hopes to introduce civil supersonic flight with new technologies to quiet the level of sonic boom (which currently prevents over-land flight).
The Silent Efficient Low Emissions Commercial Transport, or SELECT, from Northrop Grumman can carry 120 passengers at Mach .75.
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