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Exciting Updates From the Lindbergh Innovation Forum

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 24, 2019 - Flying to Europe in less than two hours. Traveling to space. Building airplanes that are more aerodynamic and better in crosswinds.

Those changes are coming, and sooner than you think.

The Lindbergh Innovation Forum on Tuesday gave people a chance to look into the future of aviation, with a lineup that included speakers from Blue Origin, NASA, and other organizations about topics ranging from artificial intelligence in aviation to VTOL and propulsion. Here are some highlights:

Commercial Supersonic

Ed Waggoner, director of the Integrated Aviation Systems Program at NASA, told of a future where people living in Oshkosh or Appleton could attend a meeting in London or Paris, and be back in their own bed that same night.

"This will happen within our lifetime," he said. "We believe there is a market for urban air mobility, and not just from midtown Manhattan to JFK airport, but that could serve underserved areas."

Ed sees a future for supersonic flight, even though the United States and world prohibit commercial airlines from flying at supersonic speeds over land because of the sound. NASA isn't alone in that belief, he noted, with companies like Boom Supersonic and Aerion Supersonic also entering the market.

"We're committed to first flying in 2022, and I believe it may actually occur in 2021," Ed said. "We believe fast air traffic … will be affordable, very efficient, and environmentally friendly," he said, and should transform business travel.

Hypersonic Travel

A.J. Piplica, CEO of Hermeus, is looking to create even faster travel, and said hypersonic travel, flying through the atmosphere below about 55 miles at speeds above Mach 5, should allow a plane to carry 20 people to Europe in about 90 minutes. He foresees that happening in the next eight to 10 years.

But how much will that speed cost consumers? A.J. said it will be up to the airlines to determine prices, but he said it should be profitable in the business class market.

"But as technologies mature, prices will come down," Ed said. "We see this starting out as a market not for the masses, but eventually that will be the case."

Space Transportation

Tamaira Ross, principal manager with Blue Origin, said space transportation should also become more affordable with time.

The commercial space sector is estimated at about $325 billion annually, and to keep costs down and make space travel affordable for both cargo and people, companies need to reduce their cost by getting more useful life out of their vehicles, increasing the frequency of their missions, and reducing operations and maintenance costs, she said.

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