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Technological Improvements in the Aircraft Industry

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Since the dawn of commercial aviation, technological advancements have made air travel safer, faster and more efficient. Although industry critics, particularly those focused on aircraft manufacturers, claim that plane makers have been slow to adopt available innovations in their business plans, manufacturers and airlines are increasingly spending more on tech upgrades. You can examine the aircraft industry’s current innovations and upcoming projects in the following paragraphs.

Renewable Energy
As successful companies like Apple, Google, Macy’s and Target draw attention for adopting green energy in their operations, aircraft companies are gradually using more eco-friendly energy sources. Currently, solar power is more widely used in commercial facilities than other forms of green energy because of its practicality and lower cost. Wind and hydroelectric power are not feasible in every location, but a solar panel system supported by an advanced solar battery can be easily installed in nearly any area with ample sunlight.
Boeing is leading the charge toward renewable energy in the aircraft manufacturing industry by planning a massive solar panel project for its South Carolina manufacturing plant.

Biofuels
Although standard jet fuel (similar to kerosene) continues to be the cheapest and most efficient way for planes to travel, more firms are experimenting with biofuels to lower emissions and reduce their environmental impact. In 2019, United made a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles with 30% biofuel and committed to a massive investment in biofuel technology. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and KLM are also testing biofuels in their planes and hope to make 100% biofuel flight eventually. The low price of oil has made some aircraft builders and designers hesitant to change their plans, but industry experts predict that biofuel research and implementation will accelerate in the next decade.

Electric Planes
Electric-powered vehicles are becoming more common on highways, and eventually, the sky will be buzzing with electric planes. In 2015, the Airbus E-Fan became the first fully electric aircraft to cross the English Channel. The small, two-seater plane proved to the world that a zero-emission aircraft could quietly utilize electric motors for powered flight. In 2022, Zunum plans to debut a twelve-passenger electric hybrid aircraft. Zunum, funded by Boeing and Airbus, is a relatively new electric aircraft startup that hopes to contribute to a new era of electric commercial flight.

Autonomous Flight
In the last fifteen years, aircraft have become more autonomous. Airline pilots can use computer assistance for automated landings, elevation and topography warnings, navigation and emergency procedures. Planes may seem like they can almost fly themselves, but a human pilot will likely continue to oversee the computer’s actions for several years to come. Automatic flight needs to be perfected and approved by several international agencies before passengers are allowed to travel long distances. In Dubai, a fleet of automated flying taxis is being tested for short-distance flights. Because of the potential savings in labor costs, industry experts contend that airlines could save several billion dollars a year with a fully automated pilot system.

Hypersonic Airlines
After the Concorde program was grounded in 2003, supersonic commercial flights ended, and no other aircraft maker has produced an airliner that can travel faster than the speed of sound. However, Boeing predicts that supersonic flights will return in the next ten to twenty years. In 2015, Airbus announced that it was working on a hypersonic airliner design that can travel 4 ½ times the speed of sound. A hypersonic jet would have a smaller market, similar to the Concorde’s, consisting of business travelers who enjoy first-class accommodations and lightning-fast flights.

Entertainment and Wireless Connectivity
Recent tech upgrades in airline cabins allow passengers to enjoy more perks once only for first-class clients. Entertainment screens mounted on the back of seats feature movies, music and games. Some airlines, like Delta, American and United offer wireless streaming for connecting phones, tablets and computers. A few years ago, texting from your phone on an airline wasn’t possible.
The aircraft industry continues to improve its designs with tech upgrades, and the industry’s upcoming projects are likely to revolutionize air travel.

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