Windowless planes - the future of aircraft design?
Tom Banks, news editor at Design Week, looks at the design of a new generation of 'windowless planes', aimed at improving fuel efficiency by reducing weight, whilst creating a new flying experience.
With the fear of flying affecting millions of people (up to 20 - 25% estimated by some), will this be taken into consideration by airlines who may be contemplating a ‘windowless’ fleet in the future? Or is it better to (literally) face your fears?
The Centre for Process Innovation (a UK based technology innovation centre) is looking to work alongside the aerospace industry and designers to bring this idea to life.
Windowless does not mean that there won’t be anything to see - the outside view would be projected onto flexible screens all around the fuselage, including possibly on the individual entertainment screens on the back of seats so that no matter where you sit, you can have the same experience. Passengers could be shown any external view they wanted from around the aircraft - could this however cause a problem if in turbulence or storms? Have they thought through the design proposal and the actual consumers?
The commercial emphasis for the project is that less windows mean less weight, which in turn means less fuel.
Having windows on a plane means that the fuselage needs to be strengthened to support the, but having walls lined with flexible screens means there would be no need for this. The CPI finds that every 1% weight reduction can lead to a fuel saving of 0.75%.
The CPI says that passengers could be shown any view they wanted and that the screens would be made of organic light emitting diodes, which give out their own light when activated by electricity.
Currently such screens are found in mobile phones and televisions and are encased in flexible glass to protect them from moisture.
CPI is looking to make flexible screens featuring flexible OLEDs and is looking for design partners to take the idea forward.
The CPI is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult umbrella group, meaning it is one of several companies to receive government funding to drive manufacturing growth.
This in part means identifying industry challenges and finding ways to overcome them by engaging the design community.
A spokeswoman for CPI says: “The windowless fuselage is a call to action in many ways to try and bring together designers, engineers and the key players in the aviation industry to make the concept a real possibility. The flight cabin of the future will happen but CPI will need to work with others to fully realise its potential.”
To find out more about the project: