Future of aviation – Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it there at all?

Is it a bird, is it a plane….is it there at all….? Or could it be just another April’s Fool…?

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Actually, no. This is just one blue-sky idea into solving the perennial problem of aircraft noise around airports in a bid to make them invisible and silent, according to Aimée Turner, Flight’s London-based Senior Editor.

Visual stealth is a well-known concept in the world of defence aviation with active camouflage technologies using light to illuminate fluorescent panels on the aircraft exterior.

Another optical camouflage technique could see electro-chromic polymer materials being applied, coating the aircraft with liquid crystal displays.

Photosensitive receptors then scan the aircraft before displaying an image on the surface – such as the sky – making the aircraft virtually invisible as it blends in with its surrounding.

Tests are also being conducted to see if noise-cancelling technologies could be used to compensate for aircraft noise inside homes.

The technology could also be used around airports runways while aircraft themselves can be made silent through adapting its high lift devices, undercarriage and cavities.

The stealth airliner concept is just one vision of late 21st century air travel produced by the European Commission-funded project Out of the Box which has since 2006 attempted to identify potential new concepts and technologies that could radically innovate future air transport.

During initial brainstorming, Europe’s top aeronautical experts came up with 100 ideas – such as the stealth airliner – with the most promising ones making the grade and developed further.

See six more ideas that were seen as having the most potential including alternative propulsion, a cruiser/feeder type of long range transport, ground-assisted take-off and landing, personal air travel, advanced airport systems and global air traffic systems.

All images courtesy of ACARE/AdeGraaff

More images in the AirSpace gallery of how the future of aviation could look

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