Breakthrough technologies that promise to radically shrink the environmental footprint of air transport are being earmarked for European research money for the first time.
Support for these blue-sky concepts has grown out of the work of a high-level European air transport forum which in 2001 published a vision on the requirements of the air transport system in 2020 setting out quantitative goals in CO2, NOx and noise reductions while increasing safety levels.
The forum, the Advisory Council for Aeronautic Research in Europe (ACARE), also recommended that in order to stimulate any technological step change in the second half of this century, the European Commission would need to establish a think-tank to identify novel concepts and technologies that would demand revolutionary changes to the system.
The Out of the Box (OOTB) project was duly established with the brief to be forward-looking rather than be expected to deliver immediate technological solutions. Initial studies resulted in several ideas that were seen as holding the most promise, offering the prospect of substantial impact and benefit to the air transport system.
OOTB's Adriaan de Graaf says that four ideas feature in the latest euro 80.42 million work programme - the EC's seventh research framework (FP7) 2007-2013 - and that the aeronautical community has until 7 May to submit its proposals allowing progress to be made in assessing viability and feasibility.
"These ideas are at the level of "systems of systems" and therefore each of them will embrace a number of technical fronts and technologies without which they will be unviable," says the EC in its work programme.
De Graaf says that Lufthansa's examination last year of an all-sleeper economy-class cabin concept on long-haul flights was an idea originally developed by OOTB (Flight International 24-30 July). Delft University is also, according to De Graaf, understood to be working on novel avionics architectures for personal air transport vehicles.
Liam Breslin, the EC's head of aeronautics research tells Flight International, flightglobal.com's sister print edition: "We have no pre-allocated budget for this but we would like to see some good innovative proposals coming which are longer term in their approach. The question is, will these originate from industry, research organisations or universities and will we get good quality proposals?"