• Anouchka Billington

What will tomorrow’s aviation look like?

Updated: Jun 22

What will tomorrow’s aviation look like?

Aviation is a marvel of technology and a great human achievement. In recent decades, aviation has been a driver for innovation. Flying was associated to progress and steady prosperity. But recently, with the Covid-19 and the environment crisis, the acceptance of flying has been questioned. Confronting the aviation industry with what is probably the greatest challenge of modern times: Climate neutral flying.

Many options are already on the market, in order for the industry to start achieving its goal. There is electric and hydrogen propulsion, then SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) for current propulsion types, and a lot more…

First of all, the electric propulsion system uses batteries as the only source of propulsion power on the aircraft. The electric propulsion is generated from electrical energy, that can originate from solar source, from wind, or from water…

Whereas the power source for the hydrogen propulsion is hydrogen fuel. Basically, liquid, or gaseous hydrogen, supplies on board fuel cells. Then, it will be combined to the air’s oxygen, in order to generate electricity, while only rejecting water.

Furthermore, SAF is a fuel made from a sustainable feedstock, which usually comes from food or forestry waste, but can also come from solid waste like paper or packaging. Once this feedstock is made, it can be blended up to 50% with traditional fuel. But as a matter of fact, it cannot be used on its own.

In my opinion, in a couple of decades, we will no longer fly with polluting options, like jet fuel, but with sustainable technologies, similar to the ones I mentioned earlier.

I believe there will be electric planes, like we have electric cars.

I also think tomorrow’s planes will be more technological. Why not maybe have pilotless planes?

In addition, by using more sustainable technologies, planes may require adjustments and therefore, look different. Planes would probably need to be lighter, smaller, or maybe have different shapes…

For instance, the Boom Supersonic plane is the perfect example. It is a long but very thin plane, with a really pointy “head”:

Photo credit: https://www.opb.org/news/article/supersonic-jets-flights-northwest-test/

The Boom Supersonic plans be the only fastest and sustainable supersonic airliners in the world. It will be able to bring you from Los Angeles to Sydney within only 8:30 hours, instead of 14:30 hours. Moreover, it will be exclusively using SAF.

I do believe the Boom Supersonic plane has a future, as it combines speed and sustainability. Two big challenges for the aeronautic sector. Indeed, people are looking to arrive faster at their destination. Plus, more and more people are sensitive about flying “greener”.

That is why, for me the Boom Supersonic can really be tomorrow’s plane.

On the other side, carbon neutrality impacts the business aviation. But in my opinion, it can be a good opportunity for the sector, in order to gain a better image. But also, to push the industry in innovating within the environmental field.

On the other hand, it is quite obvious that prices of these alternatives will be at first, more expensive than traditional options. But I do believe they can be written off and could even, in the long term, make the industry save money.

Furthermore, it is definite that aviation must adapt to its time and environment, in order to regain acceptance and to become future proof. For that, aviation will have to search for a convenient sustainable option for them.

I am convinced that this issue will be solved by the industry, as most of the time, aviation excels in solving challenges like that. Obviously, it will take time and will require a lot of innovative technologies, but I am sure they will succeed.

For the moment, in my view, aviation needs to continue using more sustainable options, as a first step for a more viable environment. And then in time, transition to greener technologies and therefore, to carbon neutral flying.

Tell us in the comments, how would you visualize tomorrow’s aviation? And in your opinion, do you think the sector is capable of achieving carbon neutrality?

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