NASA Hints at Aircraft of the Future?

Three new aircraft designs aim to cut fuel burn, emissions and noise.

Aircraft of the Future

Aircraft of the Future

** Shown here are three environmentally-friendly
designs submitted by Boeing, Lockheed Martin
and Northrop Grumman.**

What does the future of green aircraft look like? NASA recently gave aviation enthusiasts a peek by unveiling what’s coming out of the agency’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project, including three new aircraft designs put forth by some of the industry’s manufacturing giants.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were awarded close to $11 million by the agency to put forth ideas for future aircraft that reduced fuel requirements by 50 percent, released 75 percent fewer emissions and produced 83 percent less airport noise than aircraft that first entered service in 1998, the standard used for the project.

In answer to that challenge, Boeing put forth a composite wing body design inspired by the success of the X-48. Equipped with Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines positioned on top of the wing’s vertical tails, the design aims to guard against excessive ground noise while decreasing drag through improved hybrid laminar flow control.

Northrop Grumman also chose to go with an aerodynamic flying wing design, one with four Rolls Royce engines implanted within the aircraft’s upper surfaces that looks like the company’s earlier B-2.

Lockheed Martin’s proposal looks quite different, relying on a boxed wing design and a Rolls Royce Liberty Works Ultra Fan Engine with a bypass ratio 5 times higher than technology in use today.

While all three aircraft designs cut NOx emissions during takeoff and landing in half,they did not quite meet the 50 percent fuel burn reduction requirement and they produced varied results in regard to noise reduction. NASA officials said they were encouraged by the results of the study and that they will help guide the direction of research dollars in the near future.