Ten Ways Technology Will Revolutionize Air Travel
Unless you’re traveling First Class (or have your own private jet) glamour isn’t exactly a part of the 21st century domestic flight experience. Want two extra inches of leg room? Pay extra for emergency row seats. Free peanuts? Good luck. Sleeping? I don’t think the 4-year-old behind you has any idea how early you got up to catch this cheap(er) flight. Hey, the Skymall catalogs are still free. Knock yourself out.
But at least you get Wi-Fi now, right?
Prepare to have your mind blown: flying will soon be much, much, more enjoyable thanks to technological advancements. Here are ten changes to look forward to:
1. Cheaper Eco-Friendly Flights
Amazingly, the smallest tweaks make a major difference. Unsealed “[fuel tanks, fuselage, and access doors] can add up to 3,000 pounds on a single aircraft,” so 3M is creating sealants that make flights glide through the air. Weight’s an issue, too. “One pound saved is worth $500 in net present value of fuel savings on a commercial aircraft,” Airline seats of the future will likely be made of “advanced composites made with recyclable thermoplastic resins.” Fuel is obviously expensive, but Lockheed Martin is currently developing “laser” refueling systems that “beam energy from the ground to aircraft on the wing.” Their new Stalker jet maintained “continuous operation for 48 straight hours.” Even better, PC-Aero’s electric aircraft: “can fly for up to three hours on one charge with 100mph cruising speed.”
2. Quieter Rides
PC-Aero’s electric aircraft: “produces one fifth the noise emitted by regular aircraft, and one half the noise produced by regular ultra light planes.” While we wait for electric aircraft adoption, we can look forward to quicker fixes, like a “sponge” that absorbs engine noise. This “sponge [will] reduce aircraft-engine noise by as much as 30 decibels,” the developer, Ajay Agrawal, promises. Apparently, it will “bring a jet engine’s roar from the level of a rock concert down to the level of a lawnmower or chainsaw.”
3. Faster Security
Nothing better than a pat down to make you slow down and smell the—engine fuel, as your plane departs without you. JFK is one of the first terminals to implement a more efficient terminal design. “To alleviate the problem of having passengers stand around with shoes in hand, T5 has the largest contiguous security checkpoint in the United States: a 340-foot-wide area with 20 lanes to keep lines short. The farthest gate is then only a 5-minute walk from security.” That means less time spent in the terminal (unless you really need to do some duty-free shopping).
4. Personalized Seating “Zones”
In the future, you won’t have to shuffle sadly past first class, ogling their mimosas and warm hand towels. In the future, we’ll likely move beyond a flight “class” system into a personalized flight experience based on more than your financial status. Meaning there will be zones for shoppers, zones for social drinkers, zones for work, and even spa zones, complete with “relaxing sound showers and aromatherapy.” Take your pick. I’m not too particular, but if the “zone” system means that the screaming babies who always seem sit behind me will be behind soundproof glass, I’m all for it.
5. Better Seats
Aching tailbones and cramped legs of the traveling world, rejoice! There’s talk of “seats [that] will sense the tension in your body using an intelligent neural network, allowing the seat to morph and conform to your body shape – and no matter how obese the population gets by 2050, these seats will be able to cope.”
I like that last part (I think Kevin Smith might, too).
6. Superior Entertainment.
Two and a Half Men or 30 Rock reruns not cutting it for you? Well, how about a game of virtual golf or a virtual shopping trip? Other upcoming features “[include] live satellite television…GSM for in-flight mobile phone use and Broadband for access to Internet, e-mail and messaging services.”
Have an iPad? You’re in luck. Qantas Airways is partnering with Panasonic in the near future to provide “over 200 hours of on-demand content via [iPads],” and the best part? “The service is free.” If you’re sick of all the fun, you’ll have the ability to participate in “interactive conference calls.”
7. Better Views
If you’re afraid of heights, skip ahead to #9. But if you’re the type of flier who wishes airlines sold strap-yourself-to-the-wing seats, European aircraft maker Airbus recently released photos of what they believe planes will look like by the year 2050. You might not even need all that extra entertainment.
8. Fewer Delays
If you’ve ever flown into San Francisco on a foggy day, you’ll be excited about the new “enhanced vision systems (EVS) that add infrared camera views to SVS images.” Basically, “EVS enables pilots to land when fog or clouds block their view,” meaning your armrest (or the person’s arm next to you) won’t have deathgrip indentations. Also, SVS-EVS should “save fuel and decrease delays,” which is awesome for everyone.
9. Safer Trips
We all know you’re more likely to die in a car crash than in a plane crash. But many people are still hesitant to strap themselves into a tin can flying 30,000 feet above earth. Well, NASA’s Intelligent Flight Control System (IFCS) is about to make flying safer than ever. According to NASA, “The IFCS team has integrated innovative neural network technologies with state-of-the-art control algorithms to correctly identify and respond to changes in aircraft stability and control characteristics, and immediately adjust to maintain the best possible flight performance during an unexpected failure.” In the unlikely even that something goes terribly wrong, IFCS enables the pilot to make quick fixes mid-air.
10. Unmanned Aircraft
Well, this was inevitable. But the days of sending your kids up to “meet the pilot” are pretty much over. According to NationalGeographic.com, “In commercial aviation the growth of automation has resulted in computers that already fly the plane from just after takeoff to landing, turning pilots into flight-systems managers.” Personally, I can’t wait to meet Otto.
Photo Credit: Digital Sky Blog
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook