Automated Flying-Wing Airliner
Currently we have aircraft capable of flying on auto-pilot, landing under CAT III and drones being remotely piloted. With the autonomous revolution seemingly 'just around the corner' these current systems will surely be developed further to give us fully automated flight for passenger aircraft?
The flying wing design gives an opportunity for multiple passenger decks like on the Airbus A380 but for those on a lower deck, access to an external window will be limited. The challenge for such a design will be to try to overcome this fundamental issue which could quite easily lead to an uncomfortable flying experience.
There's a possibility that some windows could be provided at a high level (with respect to the interior)along the sides of the aircraft and some natural lighting could also be channelled down the sides of the top deck via an open structure form. This would provide natural lighting but wouldn't give a view of the horizon. Another possibility is to bring the window arrangement as far forward as possible (to where the pilots would have been) which would allow some visibility directly forward, but, not for everyone. However, there does seem to be some consensus among industry experts as to how to overcome this issue - with OLED portholes which relay video images from external cameras. Maybe the next step on from there would be to provide passengers with VR goggles which could virtually sit you on the wing tip or under the fuselage as you watched some in flight entertainment in a pop-up window?
However, the flying experience on the upper deck could be an altogether different experience. Without the overhead luggage bins this would allow for a panoramic-style window setup within a geodesic FRP structure. Perhaps this would bring problems of its own - would passengers feel too exposed with such an open setup? The front row of seats would offer exceptional views that previously only pilots would have experienced.
This concept was designed to accommodate the same passenger numbers as the current A380, powered by two large Rolls Royce Trent 1100 sized engines nestled within the aft of the wing structure. These engines then exhaust-out to thrust vectoring nozzles much akin to the F22 military aircraft which would aid the manoeuvrability of this massive plane. With an estimated wingspan of around the 100m mark, there would be a need for folding wings as per the Boeing 777x to reduce span while on the apron so as not to bring the airports to a complete standstill.