Future transport planes – commercial aircraft

Sketch of long-haul aircraft
Long-haul aircraft
Image 1/1, Image: DLR

Long-haul aircraft

Sketch.

Outlook

Comfortable commercial aircraft connecting cities, countries and continents while saving resources and generating low emissions.

Requirement

Reconciling greater global mobility and changing requirements

Passenger numbers for global air travel have been rising steadily for many years. The number of passenger kilometres flown worldwide doubles every 15 years. Modern passenger aircraft account for the largest share of this transport capacity. Long-haul aircraft connect continents, medium-haul aircraft enable people to travel quickly around Europe, and short-haul aircraft are important on feeder routes for major airports or for direct connections between smaller airports. Of course, passengers expect to be able to arrive at their destination in a safe, comfortable aircraft. However, in view of dwindling global energy resources and rising carbon dioxide emissions, there is also an expectation that transport aircraft should ensure global mobility in a cost-effective and environment-friendly manner. In addition, for cost reasons, airlines require aircraft that can be serviced quickly and dispatched efficiently. Moreover, airports used for international transport crossing different time zones depend on round-the-clock accessibility. Meanwhile, people living near airports want less aircraft noise overall, but especially at night.

DLR is helping to meet all of these sometimes conflicting requirements by devising fundamentally new aircraft designs, technologies and operational scenarios.

Objective

To design and evaluate an environment-friendly, economical and comfortable aircraft for the expected doubling of air transport volumes

DLR will design and evaluate commercial aircraft that both pollute the environment less and make a considerable economic contribution towards managing the expected doubling of air traffic volumes by ensuring greater convenience. Initially, the focus will be on investigating new technologies and integrating them into the aircraft, before demonstrating selected technologies in reference configurations in a second phase.

Developing and setting standards

A conventional or an unconventional aircraft configuration may be useful as a reference model, depending on the objective of the research. In addition, issues such as cabin design, engine integration and energy supply for the whole vehicle need to be considered alongside the overall design of the aircraft. It is particularly important to determine the exact way in which the different technologies interact. For the purposes of a targeted overall assessment, the primary objectives are ensuring comparability and achieving realism. In many instances, suitable metrics also need to be established and developed. One important aspect is defining a reference scenario such as a mission that includes departure and arrival airports.

Demonstrating technological potential

A key goal of the guiding concept is the development and integration of technologies to facilitate a decrease in environmental pollution, increased profitability and greater convenience. To achieve this, the potential of a wide array of technologies will be demonstrated – from aerodynamics, flight mechanics, flight control, design and materials to propulsion systems and energy supply, and all the way through to technologies aimed at increasing cabin comfort.

Looking at all the factors

Researchers are looking closely not only at the aircraft itself, but also at the way in which the aircraft interacts with its surroundings and the associated challenges. These range from issues relating to production processes and maintenance to climate impact and external noise, as well as operational infrastructure for fuel or energy supply on the ground. New operational procedures, such as single pilot operation and new flight route planning, with an emphasis on ‘lower and slower’, will also influence aircraft design.

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