Cruising along at 600mph at a vertigo-inducing 38,000 feet in the air is enough to send plenty of people into a state of panic. So just imagine doing exactly the same thing – in a plane with no windows. Scary thought, right? But if this British tech center has its way, then we’ll all be doing it in the very near future.
Of course, air travel is nothing new. In fact, it may have started as an almost exclusive way for the world’s wealthiest individuals to travel in style, but these days airplane flights are almost taken for granted. After all, every year more than 3.1 billion people jet off to destinations all over the planet.
However, although air travel is incredibly quick and convenient for its passengers, it is also known as a major contributor to global climate change. In fact, annually, passenger aircraft burn around 80 billion gallons of jet fuel.
Naturally, this rate of consumption is not sustainable. Fortunately, the solution is a seemingly simple one: build a plane that burns less fuel. It’s a task that aerospace engineers have been working on for decades, and they’ve come pretty close.
In fact, when Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner began flying in 2011 it became the company’s most fuel efficient plane. Built from composite materials, it was said to burn as much as a fifth less fuel than the previous iteration, the 767.
However, one U.K. organization is planning on taking aircraft design to a whole new level. Yes, the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), a technology research body, thinks the best way to save on fuel is actually to design a plane with no windows.
CPI thinks this because, apparently, a plane’s windows are its most significant source of excess weight. Without windows in place, then, a plane can theoretically become remarkably lighter. There are other unexpected benefits too.
Without windows, a plane’s walls will, of course, be solid. This will, in turn, make the structure of the plane stronger and more sturdy. Because of this added strength, then, the walls do not need to be as thick, making the whole fuselage lighter.
The environmental impact of these proposed alterations has the potential to be huge. A case in point? If the aircraft became just 1 percent lighter, then fuel usage would come down by 0.75 percent. But, surely, the most important questions is, just what would it be like to fly in a plane with no windows?
The idea is to replace the windows with a series of interconnecting, ultra-light screens. The screens will stream real-time video of what’s happening outside of the plane, giving passengers the experience of flying in an aircraft with no walls.
The screens will be adjustable and altered to suit each particular flight. For example, some could be used for lighting, while others could conceal certain areas of the cabin. Others still could theoretically be used to display films, menus or maps.
Furthermore, CPI intends on making the displays controllable by touch, just like a smartphone or tablet. Imagine: a touch screen wall that allows you to seamlessly admire the view outside while calling over a steward for another gin and tonic.
The screens will be built to incorporate organic light-emitting diodes (OLED). This cutting-edge technology works by harnessing the light emitted by organic compounds when stimulated by electricity.
In addition, another benefit of a windowless plane is the added comfort that it affords passengers. For instance, with thinner walls cladding the fuselage, there would potentially be more room in the cabin for wider seats. Now who wouldn’t want that?
At the moment, though, CPI’s ideas are all conceptual. However, the manufacturing techniques required to build the screens are already in development. In fact, CPI estimates that the windowless plane could be in production by 2020.
It may be a groundbreaking idea, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it does have its critics. Some people, for example, have raised concerns about the overwhelming amount of light pollution passengers would experience in the cabin.
Others have questioned how useful a plane with panoramic views of the sky would be for people with a fear of flying. Regardless, the concept has picked up a lot of traction online.
Yet, it isn’t just airplanes that interest the boffins at CPI. In fact, the organization is doing some amazing work in other areas of tech too. For instance, it has even started experimenting with printable electronics.
And the company works in pharmaceuticals too. Yes, CPI is part of a major European project to develop commercially viable nanopharmaceuticals that could revolutionize the way medicines and treatments are administered.
It obviously won’t be an easy transition, and there will be people who hate the thought of flying in a plane with no windows. However, for those willing to try the new tech out, the experience will surely be mindblowing.