Airbus has taken to crowdsourcing to brainstorm new ideas for aviation technology, asking teams across the globe to deliver some new technologies that could push aviation further.
The top five concepts take interesting approaches that tackle aviation's 2% share of global carbon omissions, reduce bird strikes, eliminate collisions, re-configure the standard galley trolley and fully-electric ground operations.
Reducing aviation with composite skin
The idea of using new skins on airplane fuselages is growing in popularity, given advances in solar panels and thin conductive materials.
MULTIFUN is a concept that covers a plane's wings in a composite skin that harvest energy from the movement of the wings. The team explains:
Piezoelectric fibres gather electrical charges from even the smallest movements during flight, storing the energy generated in battery panels integrated in the fuselage and using it to power auxiliary in-flight systems, such as lighting and entertainment systems. This reduces the energy footprint of aircraft during flight and could even replace the entire power source for ground operations.
The ability for this technology to be retrofit onto existing planes is especially appealing.
Incidents involving birds and planes are on the rise and there are relatively few technologies in existence that focus exclusively on mitigating this aviation risk.
The Birdport concept is one that uses drones as decoys and shepards to move birds away from airfields and onto a "birdport," or nearby habitat created for the birds' enjoyment. The concept works thusly:
The drones use tactics of separation, alignment and cohesion to manipulate flocks and divert them to Birdport, where birdsong and decoys are used to create a natural and safe habitat for birds in the area. The idea is designed to reduce bird strikes to aircraft significantly and to enhance aircraft availability.
Increased safety at airports is paramount — although adding another layer of complexity with drones seems to be less than ideal.
Gaming-inspired anti-collision system
Motion sensing technology was the inspiration for a concept that uses wing-tip sensors to avoid collisions between planes. Originally used in video games, the technology here would create an intra-aircraft guidance system while taxiing. From the pitch:
The model uses infra-red and visual information to warn the pilot and ground crew of high-risk obstacles. This is designed to reduce the turnaround time of aircraft between flights and the cost of damage, saving airlines millions per year.
Rethinking the galley trolley
Sorting trash can be a huge headache in between flights, causing delays and operational challenges — especially for low-cost carriers. Of course, many airlines sort trash while they retrieve it during flight.
However, that process is also challenged by the one-size fits all style of the classic trolley. The team refreshed the trolley to facilitate sorting and recycling. From the pitch:
The team’s bespoke trolley is designed to intelligently sort rubbish and recycling by minimising the volume of foils, paper and plastic and collecting residual fluid. In doing so, the weight of galley equipment can be reduced by up to 30kg reducing fuel consumption and offering more space in-flight for refreshments.
Wireless power transfer through the tarmac
This one would be quite expensive and the disruption would be hard to manage in increasingly congested airports — but it certainly is ambitious.
The idea is to embed capture coils in the ground and on the planes that would create a wireless power transfer which could then reduce pollution, noise and vehicles required for ground ops.
Transmitter sections on the ground, located just underneath the aircraft in the tarmac, transfer electrical power inductively to a receiver placed between the nose-wheels. This provides a sustainable energy source to power ground operations, reducing carbon emissions by half.
For more, including sketches of the original concepts, browse on over here.