Looking into the future

Only the weekend stands between us and the Paris Air Show. Whether you are fully prepared or, like some, looking at the Le Bourget site map in dismay, there are a number of future concepts on offer at the show this year.

First, Airbus is bringing out its E-Fan electric operated aircraft after a successful appearance at Farnborough Air Show 2014efan flight.

The company has dubbed the E-Fan the ‘future of air transportation’, claiming the technology has potential to be used in helicopters as well as fixed wing aircraft.

The demonstrator aircraft is going to be followed by production versions, including  a two-seat version, E-Fan 2.0, for basic pilot training, followed by the E-Fan 4.0 for the general aviation market, which will have four seats.

The company has in mind an aircraft with up to 100 seats (will this be the E-fan 100.0?) and there are hopes for the 2.0 to be sold some time in 2017.

Whether we are close to having fully electric powered helicopters or not is up for debate. It certainly is a possibility for manufacturers to keep in mind, and I’m sure somewhere work has already started.  After all, some were sceptical that electric cars would catch on, but they have, kind of, in a hybrid kind of way.

Also, revealed via twitter, MBDA will be showcasing a new missile concept for 2035. The Flexis video shows a particularly futuristic model where the missile is launched from a combat aircraft. Obviously it is then shown blowing stuff up.

It will be interesting to see what the company has in mind for the next 20 years of missile development.

Any details beyond that are yet to be revealed, although the company did hint that the target aircraft in the video was possibly a J-20.

Finally, there’s the Thales Stratobus, something of a cross between a satellite and a drone. Thales says that it could provide a future solution for observation, mapping and telecommunications (both civil and military).stratobus_plateforme_geostationnaire_thales

On-board energy is provided via a solar concentrator inside the balloon and a reversible fuel cell, while the ring around the Sratobus allows it to rotate so that it is always facing the sun.

The airship will operate at an altitude of around 20km and be able to carry a 200kg payload. The company hopes that it will be rolling out the Strotobus towards the end of 2020 – which used to feel pretty far into the future, but it’s only five years away now.

That’s just a titbit of what you’ll come across next week at Paris Air Show. Now all we can do is pray to the aviation gods for good weather and hope to see you there.

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