NASA held a Green Aviation Summit this week at its Ames Research Center to discuss ways to make air travel more efficient and environmentally friendly.
“As the world travels even more, we’re going to have a very serious global warming issue, as well as lots of other environmental impacts of aviation,” said Ames Research Center Director Simon “Pete” Worden in his opening speech.
About 200 NASA experts, academics and industry leaders convened for the meeting, which focused on cutting-edge technologies that could make travelers’ next plane trip quieter, cleaner and less stressful.
According to the presenters, the next generation of airplanes will use lighter, more resilient materials, super-efficient engines, alternative fuels, upgraded cockpits and even unconventional configurations.
“We need to make some changes — both in the design of aircraft and in the way they transit through our skies to not only maintain, but improve safety and efficiency,” Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. said. “That’s a huge challenge, but we at NASA enthusiastically accept it.”
Once the technology is created, NASA aeronautics aims to work with manufacturers, airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration to put it into place. Recent NASA improvement ideas have already begun to show up on modern airliners. Winglets, a small vertical wingtip, reduce fuel consumption, while chevrons, located on engine nozzles, reduce jet engine noise.
Bolden noted that such improvements to the aviation industry are critical because of the increased use of air travel and lack of available space for building new airports.
“Green is not just a buzzword to us,” he said.