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An A330 wing being built in a factory

Air travel is in a period of change as exciting new aviation advancements place the whole industry is in a state of flux.

Things like the advancements of electric propulsion systems, the future of eVTOLs, the digitisation of the supply chain are all contributing to how aeroplanes are built, but just as interesting is how the rapid pace of technological innovation is changing what consumers expect from airlines.

For the most part, the airlines and the companies that make their planes are not all that well equipped to react quickly to change. A new plane takes more than a decade to put into service and it’s designed to keep flying for several subsequent decades. However, companies are necessarily having to adapt and develop faster than ever to stay ahead of the competition.

Currently, there are some very exciting, and potentially game-changing innovations that we can expect to find their way into common airline use in the next couple of decades (or sooner).

Electric propulsion

We’ve talked about this before, because it excites us no end. Electric aircraft just isn’t that wild an idea any more.

To find out more, check out our recent blog: What Will Electric Technologies In The Aerospace Industry Look Like In 5 Years?

Hypersonic travel

We were all sad to see the concorde go. It was an incredible marvel of technology. However, it just wasn’t cost and consumer friendly enough. This doesn’t mean that manufacturers have given up with developing a high-speed flight offering.

In 2015, Airbus patented a hypersonic jet capable of reaching 4.5 times the speed of sound. The design patented by Airbus shows an aircraft powered by a combination of turbojet, ramjet, and rocket motor.

Earlier this year, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told CNBC that he expects hypersonic commercial flights to be a reality within the next decade or two. Even though passengers will probably have to pay a premium for the service, being able to fly from New York to Shanghai in less than two hours may be worth it.

Electric planes might deliver quiet, eco-friendly air travel, hypersonic flights get you to your destination fast.

Biofuels

Modern jets produce a lot of CO2. For all their refinement, incredible engineering and efficiency, they still run on kerosene. A Boeing 747-400 for example, produces about 101 g per passenger every km.

You can work out how much CO2 your recent flight used here. https://co2.myclimate.org/en/portfolios?calculation_id=1385193

Whilst not as exciting as electric propulsion bio-fuels do offer a much more economic solution than standard kerosene and are a step in the right direction towards cutting down on greenhouse emissions.

Airlines just such as United, KLM, and Singapore have all operated commercial flights using biofuels.

Currently, there are a variety of biofuels based on everything from recycled vegetable oil to plant-based ethanol. Virgin Atlantic is even working with a Chinese firm to develop a biofuel using waste gases captured from steel mills.

However, low oil prices currently make biofuels uneconomical for commercial airlines.

Autonomous flight

This one may sound like complete science fiction, however as technology has progressed the softwares first designed to assist pilots have slowly begun to become more and more capable.

There have been a number of successful short distance flight tests, testing pilotless flying taxis. And we imagine this software will be very important in UBERs flying taxi plans. LINK

Major aviation players seem to be working on this as well.

We doubt autonomous flight will take on very soon, as we all know that technology has a tendency to go wrong, and i for one wouldn’t want to be on the flight where it goes haywire.

Biometrics

In the past decade, the check-in process has gone from paper printouts to app-based QR codes. But in the near future, all we’ll need is to simply show up. That’s because the next step in the evolution of the airport experience is biometrics.

Facial recognition technology has come a long way in quite a short period of time, with many major airports now using this technology at security. However, even more exciting is the possibility to check in with it too.

JetBlue announced this year that it is working to perfect facial recognition technology to be used instead of paper or electronic boarding passes. All passengers will have to do is stand in front of a camera and take a picture. The photo will then be matched to the US Customs and Border Patrol database.

Connectivity and entertainment

Our last innovation is the most exciting for consumers. Being able to access the internet on their long-haul flights.

It wasn’t so long ago that in-flight entertainment for a 8 hour flight was, well a book. At best you might expect a screen in the isle showing a not quite recent blockbuster. And it wasn’t that long ago that we had in-flight pay phones.

Today we have elaborate seatback entertainment systems. However, these are chunky and heavy and their days ay be numbered.

The development of satellite-based internet connectivity means simply, Netflix on planes. Those bulky built in systems will likely soon become obsolete.

What the future holds

We can’t say for certain what the future holds, but we can say that with the rapid progression of technological evolution it is an exciting time for the industry.

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To find out more about JP Aero and how we play a leading role in the aerospace supply chain with our range of aerospace, industrial, vintage and historic and bespoke aircraft fasteners contact us today on +44 (0)208 504 8833 or get in touch via email: sales@jpaerocom.co.uk.

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