Tech

Airbus: Planes Could Fly In Formation Like Birds To Reduce Fuel Use

Passenger aircraft flying in formation like birds could be a feature of aviation in the second half of this century, it was revealed on Thursday.

Formation flying could happen on high-frequency routes under a vision for flying from 2050 and beyond produced by plane-making company Airbus.

The company added that by the middle of the 21st century flights in Europe and the USA could on average be around 13 minutes shorter, saving around nine million tonnes of fuel a year.

In its latest vision for sustainable aviation in the future, Airbus envisages:

  • Aircraft climbing more steeply on take-off to minimise noise and allow for shorter runways;
  • Highly-intelligent aircraft able to "self-organise" and select the most efficient and environmentally-friendly routes;
  • Planes free-gliding on their approach into airports to reduce emissions and reduce noise;
  • Planes clearing the runway quicker on landing and passengers reaching terminals faster;
Airbus Future Concept

The use in aviation of sustainable biofuels and other potential energy sources such as electricity, hydrogen and solar power.

Shorter journey times could be achieved by the optimisation of air traffic management and on-board technology systems.

The shorter flights would lead to the saving of more than 28 million tonnes of avoidable C02 emissions a year as well as the saving of five million flying hours.

Airbus engineering executive vice president Charles Champion said: "Our engineers are continuously encouraged to think widely and come up with 'disruptive' ideas which will assist our industry in meeting the 2050 targets we have signed up to.

"These and the other tough environmental targets will only be met by a combination of investment in smarter aircraft design and optimising the environment in which the aircraft operates. That is why our latest Future by Airbus Smarter Skies concepts focus on not just what we fly, but how we may fly in 2050 and beyond."