Airbus have outlined their vision for the future of air travel - 3D printed planes that are faster, more economical and which can even change shape.

Speaking at Edinburgh's TEDGlobal, the aviation behemoth's designers revealed aconcept plane constructed around a lattice fuselage - an idea that would substantially reduce their weight.

It would also have the bonus of creating a cabin with panoramic views of the skies, rather than a pokey little port hole as in today's planes.

airbus concept plane

Reclining while watching the sunset from 40,000 feet up

Other innovations include wings that bend and move instead of using flaps, and seats that mould themselves to the individual passenger.

Airbus also suggest seats could harvest energy from passengers, have individual 'floating displays' and even a virtual golf course.

While all this sounds jolly entertaining, the Airbus concept plane does have a serious point to make.

Speaking to the BBC Airbus engineer, Bastian Schaefer, said: "Flying in the future must remain affordable for both people and from an environmental perspective.

"We are running out of oil and we have to find other solutions.

"Some of this can be done via technology, but we are also looking for alternative fuels."

While the promised miracle fuel source of hydrogen fuel cells still remains impractical, Airbus are instead concentrating on biofuels:

Airbus is acting as a catalyst for sustainable biofuels through an ambitious programme to form regional biofuel "value chains" in every continent, using the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels criteria to guarantee sustainability. Five such value chains already have been established, in Australia, Brazil, Middle East, Romania and Spain.

While it’s not foreseeable that fuel cells would be used for commercial aircraft propulsion, they are one of the most promising "step change" technologies to power cabin operations. As hydrogen is combined with oxygen in a "cold" combustion, the only by-product is water. This could be used for the aircraft’s water and waste system, saving water, weight and – in turn – fuel consumption and emissions.

Whether or not the concept plane ever makes it into production is debatable - but as a vision for the future it's pretty promising.

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  • he Airbus Concept Plane stretches the imagination of engineers, and illustrates the main technologies being explored in anticipation of the future needs of passengers - Airbus

  • Airbus_Concept_Plane_4

    "Here we are stretching our imagination and thinking beyond our usual boundaries. We want to stimulate young people from all over the world to engage with us so that we can continue to share the benefits of air transport while also looking after the environment.” says Charles Champion, EVP Engineering about Airbus concept plane.

  • The Airbus Concept Plane illustrates what future air transport could look like if improvements in aircraft materials, aerodynamics, cabins and engines continue apace - Airbus

  • Air passengers get a glimpse into the long-term future of flight as Airbus unveils its Concept Plane at the Farnborough International Airshow.

  • The Airbus Concept Plane – shown here above a virtual Hong Kong – illustrates the main technologies being explored in anticipation of the future needs of passengers and their planet - Airbus

  • The Airbus Concept Plane – shown here above a virtual London – illustrates what air transport could look like in 2050 - Airbus

  • The Airbus Concept Plane - shown here above a virtual New York City - is an “engineer’s dream” to meet the expectations of future passengers - Airbus

  • Inspired by nature, the Airbus Concept Cabin illustrates what the future of flight might look like from the passengers' perspective - Airbus

  • The Airbus Concept Cabin – which shows what future air travel may look like from a passenger’s perspective – is based on extensive research into the way the world’s population is changing - Airbus

  • The future by Airbus - The Airbus Concept Cabin Xray: Airbus predicts that the aircraft in 2050 will have a bionic structure that mimics bird bones to allow for lighter weight structure and open panoramic views - Airbus

  • The future by Airbus - Passengers in 2050 can sit back and enjoy the night sky when travelling to destinations due to bionic structure and interactive membrane of the Airbus Concept Cabin Airbus

  • The future by Airbus - The Interaction Zone / Virtual Golf: The centre interactive zone provides space for social scenrios, such as a virtual game of golf with people on ground or even with passengers in other aircraft - Airbus

  • The future by Airbus - Smart Tech Zone: Morphing seats can harvest passenger's body heat to power aircraft systems such as holographic pop-up pods as shown here in the Airbus Concept Cabin "Smart Tech Zone" -Airbus