Sunday, January 19, 2014

Whale-Like Plane Wants To Get Some Air

If you took an Airbus A380, asked Al Gore to work on it and Michael Bay to show us the result, you might end up with the Sky Whale. Despite its large capacity, this conceptual aircraft boasts sleek features that include a solar roof and an unusual engine system.
Aviation enthusiast and Barcelona-based designer Oscar Viñals came up with the Sky Whale as a futuristic vision for greener air travel. According to his design description, he combined existing technology with concepts that don’t exist yet in order to maximize performance while minimizing the environmental impact. His design could reduce both air and noise pollution.
Sky Whale would seat 755 passengers on three floors. For comparison, an A380 can be configured to seat 853. But most striking is Viñals’ plan to power the aircraft. He calls for “a unique, hybrid turbo-electric propulsion system” consisting of four oversize electric-fuel engines that can each rotate up to 45 degrees for takeoff and landing. We’re clearly not there yet, but Viñals anticipates significant advances in battery technology.
In addition, Sky Whale’s design calls for a ceiling structure containing micro-solar cells arranged in a hexagonal pattern to help power passengers’ electronics and give the engines a boost, Dvice’s Colin Druce-McFadden pointed out. Other cool elements: active wings, carbon nanotubes, self-healing skin and virtual reality windows with adaptable opacity similar to these.
There are people who will look at Viñals’ beautiful design and scoff. They’re going to point to all the impossibilities, the giant leaps that haven’t been attempted yet. The airline industry isn’t known for moving quickly to change anything, either. But air travel is all about overcoming daunting challenges. Given our past, it’s worth listening to what this whale is saying about the future.