At the TED Global Conference held in Edinburg, aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced plans for their new "airplane of the future." The airplane will include essential 3D printed components that will reduce the overall weight of the plane and allow it to use less fuel. Some of the 3D printed components will be used in the new lattice-like design at the front of the plane. Modeled after the skeletal system of birds, the design allows for strength and stability while providing a panoramic view. "The cabin's bionic structure will be coated with a biopolymer membrane, which controls the amount of natural light, humidity and temperature, providing opacity or transparency on command and eliminating the need for windows," Airbus wrote in its description of the new plane. "This smarter structure will make the aircraft lighter and more fuel-efficient while giving passengers 360 degree views of the skies. This will offer unparalleled, unobstructed views of the wonders of the five continents – where you will be able see the pyramids or the Eiffel Tower through the transparent walls of the aircraft."
Other designs for the plane of the future include self-adjusting morphing seats that harvest energy from the people sitting in them while reacting to the weight and body shape of each passenger. "Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980, just under two thirds of the global population will be obese by 2030 and in America alone this is expected to reach 65% by 2050," Airbus stated on their website. "But one thing is clear, with more people travelling and their size, shapes and needs changing, aircraft cabins need to change right alongside them."
Airbus also plans to throw out the traditional "class" system, replacing business and first class with areas designed for entertainment and communication. "You might be travelling alone, but holographics, communication technologies and sound showers let you work with your colleagues or read a bedtime story to the kids as though they were right alongside," Airbus wrote.
The airplane of the future may also run on alternative fuel sources, though that advancement is still in development. "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," Airbus engineer Bastian Schaefer said. "Some of this can be done via technology, but we are also looking for alternative fuels."
You can take a look at the concept art for the plane of the future here: