Consider if you would the planes you will board 2037…
Prognostications are always suspect; consider this from Orville Wright, “No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris … [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed for four days without stopping.” There is no doubt he was a forward thinking person, but not even he could have foreseen the dramatic rate of change of the 20th century. So I am not going too far out on a limb suggesting there may be a hybrid power commercial plane in your future. There are already a few electric General Aviation aircraft demonstrating the technology. See www.pipistrel-usa.com
The Boeing vision is the SUGAR (Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research) project. The concepts include a 737 sized aircraft that uses jet fuel for take-off and switches to all-electric mode once in cruise flight. Even if pilots use the engines to reach the thin air above 30,000 feet, where there is much less drag, they can then throttle them way back and save considerable fuel. Boeing reports that the SUGAR Volt concept of an electric battery, gas turbine hybrid propulsion system can reduce fuel burn by greater than 70 percent and reduce total energy use by 55 percent by including battery energy in the mix. At the moment, the battery technology is far from adequate, but improving at a rapid pace because of automotive and other developments. Research by Rice University, which was published recently in www.nature.com, suggests we are not far from a spray-on rechargeable Li-ion battery. Joules from the sun are more useful than jewels in the sun.
Boeing will certainly change more than the power plant. Composite technologies that make the 787 possible will also allow thinner and longer wings for more lift and less drag. We fold aircraft wings to stow them below decks on an aircraft carrier. So, why not fold an airliner’s wings to a standard boarding gate—at least for as long as today’s standard stays standard. Higher lift wings allow shorter take-off rolls, so more airports will become accessible. Most airplanes need less runway length to land than to take-off. That is pretty interesting to China, the biggest airplane market the world has ever seen. China is building 10 times more new airports than the US and Europe combined.
Not surprisingly, the supersonic version is not far behind. These technologies of improved structure and redesigned wings logically lead to the next big thing. Boeing reports the supersonic team has focused on four concepts, including a low fuel burn/low boom swing-wing “arrow” configuration, a low sonic boom concept with a V-tail to shield noise and control the sonic boom, a joined wing alternate concept and an oblique “scissor” wing alternate concept. Buck Rogers, your plane is ready!
So, what else changes and, more to the point, how do these changes impact our world of interconnects? I thought of a few things and I am sure you’ll be able to add to my list.
Copper based in-flight entertainment systems will go the way of buggy whips. Fiber optics and wireless will be the norm.
A lot of electrical power means a lot of IR heat, so flat or ribbon cables may be reconsidered for heat dissipation.
Composite structure and high voltage will make EMI/EMC experts very popular!
Metal based connectors will fall out of favor and be replaced by metalized high performance plastics. I’ve read about flexible interconnect using extreme textiles–conformal to an aircraft skin seems useful.
The point of this article is change; Boeing is just one example.
I was in the Apple store over the weekend and it was mobbed. Clearly, Apple either created change or saw it coming and got out in front of it.
As the old saying goes you either create change, take advantage of change or wonder what happened to the business you used to have. Earl Nightingale, a thinker and speaker of some renown, a few years back suggested we start each day in a quiet room with a yellow pad and pencil, so we could write out ideas about changes coming to our industry in products, processes or paths to market. Most of the ideas you write will be useless, but one or two could change your life, and you could have 200 new ideas a year—even if you don’t think on weekends. Your ah-haa moment is waiting. Everything around you was once just a thought.
This morning I wrote these ideas on my new IPad. I’m glad not to be in the yellow pad and pencil business!