How We’ll Fly – 6 Aviation Innovations

Danielle Beurteaux

The dream of flight is alive and well, and technology is changing everything from how we fly commercial to personal flight transportation. Here are six ways technology is being used to change aviation.

Supersonic travel with Boom

The Concorde was a mythic yet ultimately untenable mode of international transportation. With seats going for about US$8,000 a piece one way (the Concorde’s last flights from London’s Heathrow to New York’s JFK cost £4,350 one way and £8,292 for return), the service, which ended in 2003, was heavily supported by the British and French governments and never made a profit.

But that hasn’t stopped some big dreamers from plotting the Concorde’s return – or a version of supersonic travel. Boom Technology, a startup based in Denver, plans to offer commercial supersonic travel that’s not only faster than the Concorde was, but also less expensive (they’re projecting US$5,000+ for a trip between New York and London, which would take around three-and-a-half hours). Boom also claims the craft will be more efficient and quieter.

The plane is still in development, but the model looks pretty slick. The company says it will ready for test flights by late 2017.

Supersonic without the “boom”

Another dream of quiet supersonic flight comes from Boston-based Spike Aerospace. Spike is working on a small private jet that would seat only 18. The craft is designed with a long, thin nose and sleek body that should minimize the sound the plane makes once it breaks the sound barrier. It’s also designed to run on less fuel than the Concorde.

Electric flight

A partnership between Siemens and Airbus aims to create the Prius of the skies – a hybrid jet fuel-electric aircraft that’s environmentally sustainable (for a plane, anyway), quiet, and conforms to the European Union’s environmental rules.

Panasonic’s high-tech cubicle

The next time you’re squished in a seat in economy, think of Panasonic’s new aircraft seat environment the company just unveiled at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. Called “Waterfront,” it has a Wi-Fi, controllable lighting, video, and music via an app, a 24-inch 4K television, and a built-in camera. It will be incorporated into planes for use during 2019.

Luxury hotel of the air

If first class is more your thing, you could have a new, luxurious travel experience on an Airbus A380. “First Spaces” is a new design for first class spaces that looks like it’s been lifted from a luxury yacht. Created to optimize privacy, the “rooms” all have doors. Inside, the upholstered seats fold down to become beds. You can even avoid cabin staff, thanks to technology – passengers can communicate and do things like order another bottle of champagne via tablet.

Personal jetpack

If you’ve been yearning for a personal jetpack ever since you first saw the 1965 James Bond film “Thunderball,” you may soon have several options. New Zealand’s Martin Aircraft is about ready to let its first customers test out its experimental personal jetpack. The base model is $150,000, and the first market is emergency response personnel. Another potential option is JetPack Aviation’s JB-10; the previous model, the JB-9, was the one that flew around the Statue of Liberty last year. It can go high (up to 10,000 feet), fast (100+ mph), and stay aloft longer than most (10 minutes). The bigger challenge will be getting your hands on one – the JB-10 is still in development.

For more on how we interact with the machines playing an increasingly large role in our lives, see our research report Bring Your Robot to Work.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.