Road showing NASA's goals for the future of flight
17 Apr 2015

NASA’s Future For Flight


Joe Frost recently spoke with Chief NASA Scientist Albion Bowers for Techly to discuss the progress and possible pending innovations he predicts in aviation. Bowers had some good news about how advances in technology are targeted to improve safety, increase efficiency and aid in the development of supersonic aircraft. “The Future Series: The Future of Flying – And Where NASA’s Taking Us in the Air” explores all of these exciting applications.

With last month’s Germanwings Airliner crash still fresh in everyone’s mind, ground-collision avoidance is a timely topic in commercial aviation. Bowers quoted some alarming statistics, explaining that nearly half of airline fatalities worldwide are caused by properly functioning aircraft flying into the ground. The United States has a name for it – controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).

There is actually new software available that could have averted last month’s tragedy and help to prevent many like it. This technology seizes control of the aircraft from the pilot to prevent the collision, and then returns the controls after the danger has been averted. The Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) is being used on F16s in the USAF.

Other advances discussed included super-fast aircraft. By changing the sound of the sonic boom, Bowers predicts a six or seven hour flight from London to Sydney rather than the exhausting twenty plus hours currently required. He sees this being a possibility within about a decade. But sub-orbital flight is a more distant probability. Cost is a major factor. And ticket prices for these particular flights might range in the low six figures. 

Bowers further described how drone technology may eventually replace co-pilots; speculated about new jet wing designs that will be inspired by how birds fly; and explored the application of electric and solar power in aircraft and to provide much needed assistance in disaster-stricken areas.

Review the entire article at “The Future Series: The Future of Flying – And Where NASA’s Taking Us in the Air.”