Last year, more than 3 billion people were transported by air - wow!
That means that about 44% of the entire global human population travelled by air!
It is predicted that by 2050, this could increase to about 70% of the worlds population. To meet this incredible increase, the airlines and aircraft of the future will be developed to handle the increased pressure that will be brought about by this change. Aircraft will inevitably need to be faster, more efficient, eco-friendly and safer. As always, Engineers are working on designing and developing aircraft that will meet rise to these challenges.
The launch of the Concorde over four decades ago provided a glimpse of what the future of could have looked like. As we all know, Concorde was eventually retired due to safety reasons, but the evolving technology has demonstrated that it is possible to provide supersonic flight with comfort and style. Moving into the future there is no doubt that supersonic commercial flight will return and will no longer be restricted to military aircraft.
With air transport expected to increase seven fold in the next 50 years, there will undoubtedly be an increase in greenhouse gas emissions with the current technologies. Powered aircraft of the future will need new innovations to combat this increase. A popular current methodology for the reduction of harmful emissions form powered aircraft is with electrically powered aircraft.
A significant barrier to this though is the energy capacity (or the weight associated with capacity) of the batteries themselves. Theoretically, batteries needed to power aircraft of the future will need to have an energy density of 500 watt-hours per kilogram, with a ratio of power cell to overall mass of between 0.7-0.8. Recent innovations have edged toward achieving this goal. In 1994, Lithium-ion batteries were capable of achieving energy densities of 113wh/kg. Two decades later, a lithium-ion battery had the capacity of about 300Wh/kg. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that by 2050, engineering innovations will have created a battery with over 500Wh/kg energy density.
No doubt that future aircraft will have technologies in place as standard that seem like science fiction at present. But to achieve these ambitious goals for the increase in air capacity, extensive engineering research will have to be carried out. That notwithstanding, recent strides and the continual dedication of the Engineering community have shone a positive light towards the realisation of these goals.