A NASA-sponsored competition to design futuristic, fuel-efficient airplanes has led to a jet prototype that would burn roughly 70 percent less fuel than current aircraft.
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed what they called a D-series “double bubble” jet, which features a wide fuselage composed of two partial cylinders fused together in an aerodynamic shape.
The prototype also has a smaller tail, skinnier wings, and engines mounted on the rear of the fuselage instead of the wings, which allows the engines to suck in slower-moving air and increase efficiency.
These changes and use of lighter materials help the plane burn 70 percent less fuel, the MIT team said. In addition to designing this subsonic model, the MIT team designed a supersonic model, as well, that they said would also sharply cut fuel consumption.
The NASA competition — known as “N+3” to denote three generations beyond today’s commercial fleet — also included designs from Boeing, GE Aviation, and Northrop Grumman. Air traffic is expected to double by 2035, and one MIT engineer said new designs were needed because “aircraft silhouettes have basically remained the same over the past 50 years.”
Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.