APH reveals "futuristic" concept for low-emission commercial aircraft


British company APH has unveiled plans for a new hybrid-electric commercial aircraft, which it says would carry as many passengers as a jumbo jet but produce significantly less emissions (+ slideshow).

APH (Airport Parking and Hotels) worked with Adam Omar – an aircraft design PHD student at Imperial College London – to come up with a concept envisaging the future of aircraft travel within the next 30 to 40 years.

Electric Plane by APH

Omar's design encompasses a number of breakthrough technologies and new concepts, which each aim to make aircraft travel both more comfortable and environmentally friendly.

The proposed hybrid-electric aircraft replaces commonly used kerosene fuel-powered engines with small biofuel engines and fans powered by electric motors, which would result in a fraction of the emissions compared to a Boeing 747.

Electric Plane by APH

The electrical fans would be positioned in clusters along the back of the craft rather than mounted on the wings.

This positioning would help to suck in the thick layer of air around the aircraft body to reduce drag.

Electric Plane by APH

Omar's proposal also takes advantage of superconductivity – a phenomenon of zero electrical resistance that occurs when certain materials are cooled below a critical temperature.

This would mean that no electricity is lost due to friction when passing through the plane's power system, leading to a reduction in fuel requirements.

Electric Plane by APH

"Hybrid-electric planes offer a promising way forward for cleaner flight, and it's an area of research the sector is already investing in," said Beverley Barden of APH. "By creating these designs we wanted to spark a conversation, within the industry and beyond, about technologies that could help the transition from fossil fuel."

"These concepts might seem futuristic, but the technology is in development today – and it's exciting to imagine all the changes we'll see to commercial flight in the years ahead," she added.

Electric Plane by APH

Omar's design features large wings that blend into the main body – or fuselage – of the plane, creating more cabin space for increased passenger capacity.

Although the sting ray-shaped blended wing shape is not a new idea and has been used in numerous prototypes and concepts, it is rarely seen commercial use.

Electric Plane by APH

"This sleek, efficient shape reduces drag and means the entire craft generates lift, vastly improving fuel economy," said APH. "The body naturally acts as a noise shield against the engines, as well as offering much more interior space for cargo, passengers and crew than a traditional aircraft."

Similarly to tech firm Centre for Process Innovation's 2014 proposal, OLED screens would be used to to make aircraft cabins appear see-through from the inside.

Electric Plane by APH

Virtual reality headsets – also with OLED screens – would be attached to the seats to display movies and games in full 3D. These are also designed to automatically fold away on take-off and landing, or in the event of an emergency.

The plane will also accommodate inflight bars, lounge areas and places to socialise.

Boeing Microlattice – a metal that is considered to be the world's lightest material – would be used across large parts of seating, flooring and walls to contribute to even greater fuel efficiency.

Electric Plane by APH

Ideas for improving aviation vary greatly in scale and plausibility. Among the more practical suggestions are folding seats patented by Airbus and Priestmangoode's plans to add larger overhead compartments.

More extreme proposals put forward recently by designers include using OLED screens to make aircraft cabins appear see-through, and a hybrid car and plane that can be used both on roads and in the skies.

Other recent developments in flight include a new luxury line of personal aircraft from Cobalt and the return of Virgin Galactic space flight testing.

  • Mark

    What is it with wanting OLED screens projecting clouds inside of plane fuselages? Please no.

    • Thomas

      “What is it with it”? Your question is impossible to understand so if you want an answer to it, you need to make your question much clearer!

    • Hej!

      The weight of an airplane decreases when windows are omitted. With OLED screens you keep the views, while omitting the windows. I prefer the traditional windows, because when you’ve flown above Belgrade, you can say you’ve seen Belgrade, while with OLED screens, you’ve only seen a live movie showing Belgrade.

      • nwsctt

        There may also be an issue regarding individual taste. When on a plane quite a few people choose to close their blinds. Unless all planes are to become entirely first class there seems to be no obvious consideration for individual preferences?

  • Archi

    Really quite beautiful, in a Thunderbirdesque retro-futurist way.

  • Dylan Milne

    Kinda surprised by the engine layout. Thought they’d be centreline as that seems to be what is being gravitated towards as most efficient. Interesting.