INNOVATION IN AVIATION is a funny thing. Thanks to that pesky sonic barrier, commercial air travel isn’t getting any faster (at least not before NASA figures out a few things). Until we can reduce the time spent in the air, improving air travel is all about working on the experience of being in the plane.
Dubai is a city in a desert on the edge of the future. Obscenely wealthy and home to the world’s tallest building, the emirate combines modern technology with an aristocrat’s glee in flaunting wealth. Dubai already hasjetpack stuntmen in the sky, camera-strapped eagle videographers on the buildings, and police in Lamborghinis on the ground. How does a city improve upon that? With a drone grand prix, offering a $1 million in prizes, of course.
FLYING ECONOMY IS an exercise in indignity. You suffer the TSA, just to cram yourself into a tiny seat and sadly eat a $12 airport sandwich because no one serves food anymore. In a bid to make the experience at least a little better, Boeing is focusing on one part of the plane: the lavatory.
CNN reports that a piece of plane wreckage found off Mozambique in southeastern Africa likely belongs to lost plane Malaysia Airlines 370.
It’s easy to forget, in our world of ever-present GPS directions, that it’s still possible to get lost on this little planet. Then the ocean swallows an entire airliner, and then it does it again, and the world suddenly seems vast and unknowable again. Fortunately, technology exists that can track planes, and not just as hypothetical future designs. Today, the United Nations set aside a small part of the radio spectrum for better tracking of airplanes from space.
Sometimes, the best things are those that can be easily left behind. For rescue missions, whether battlefield or natural disaster, DARPA envisions using lightweight, cheap, and expendable single-use drones that can carry supplies to those in need and, once their mission is complete, fall apart into disposable uselessness. Building on VAPR, which wanted electronics that fell apart on command or when introduced to water, DARPA’s new ICARUS program reaches for the sky and hopes to fall apart before it gets there.
Customer service complaints, wasted hours, and extremely uncomfortable seats: Frequent and occasional flyers alike have a lot of problems with the status quo of air travel.