Sometimes, movies that depict the future end up getting it right. Of course, the only way to know for sure is to wait and see. In the movie Back To The Future, the famous DeLorean blasts into the future and lands on October 21, 2015. For a 1985 movie, that’s 30 years into the future. Lots of cool, futuristic scenes were depicted that defied what many of us thought were possible. When October 21, 2015 actually arrived a couple years ago, there was a movement of people looking to compare how things in the movie’s 2015 stacked up to how they were in the actual 2015. Some things, like the virtual reality glasses and video conferencing, came to fruition. Others, like the hover board, still have yet to be made – at least like in the movie. Those “hover boards” being manufactured today have wheels. Not even close. There are some cool things on the horizon for aviation that suggest a thrust in the direction of how we might picture the future. These next few topics have been buzzing lately, and they are worth keeping an eye on, McFly.
Visions of the future wouldn’t be complete without somebody in a space suit. The Apollo missions began a space movement as we endeavored to put a man on the moon. The impossible became reality as the world watched in awe. Since then, space travel as we know it has become largely regarded as commonplace. We seem to be at the beginning of a new and exciting time about space exploration, though. The possibility of putting a man or woman on Mars is not only a reality, but has a working timeline. SpaceX has been making huge waves with their successful launches of reusable rockets. I watched a live launch a couple weeks ago where a rocket took off, made it to space, returned to the surface and landed flawlessly in a shorter time span than I can take a shower and brush my teeth. The space race is back, and it’s going to be awesome.
The Intersection of Manned and Unmanned Flight
The word “drone” might conjure up a kid flying a toy in the backyard, but as the technology ramps up, those “toys” have evolved from a “remote control” feel to earning the title of aircraft. Regulation is in a race to keep up with the technology and the new, creative ways that people and companies are looking to use drones. The FAA is working to integrate the airspace. The first unmanned aerial systems (UAS) airspace maps were just released. Amazon had their first successful drone delivery and UPS announced plans to use drones in the delivery of packages as well. Uber has announced that it is looking into drones for taxi service, and a company in Dubai thinks they can have them flying by this summer. Whether any of this pans out exactly as its conceptualized or not, the lower levels of airspace will soon be a very different environment. As a pilot and avgeek, I tend to look skyward when I hear a plane overhead. Those of us who still gawk and point are the exception, though. The masses hardly notice the mundane crisscrossing of air travel above. I don’t think it will be long before drones zipping overhead is the norm.
This is certainly not a new concept. The challenge with electric airplanes has been an ongoing battle; one that relied greatly on the technology to meet the demands of the concepts. Electric cars have long been churning around the idea mill as well, but those have now made it to the every day consumer. Several car companies make an all electric model, and it’s not unusual to see electric charging stations in parking lots. Adopting electric technology into aviation has been inching closer to reality. Recently, an airplane called Solar Impulse flew around the world using only solar powered electricity to make a statement that it could be done. Since then, companies like JetBlue and Boeing have invested in an all electric design. These developments bring with them the hope of cheaper flying, both for general aviation and passenger travel. Maybe someday we’ll learn to fly for much cheaper in an all electric Cessna.
Ready For Launch
For many of us, seeing is believing. Had you told me 20 years ago about half of the technology that I now use every day, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it. We used to have pagers, cell phones, and PDA’s. Often all at once, clipped to our belts. Those technologies melted together into the smartphones we use today. For many of these ideas for the future of aviation, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” It’s hard to say exactly what the various elements of aviation will melt into, but aviation has been built on dreaming and innovation. So many advances have been made since its humble beginnings at Kitty Hawk in 1903. And I’ll bet if you had mentioned an autopilot, ADS-B or satellite weather to Wilbur and Orville, even they would have said you’re crazy. There are times when I look around and think, “wow, this feels like I’m living in the future,” but just wait, kids. There’s a lot on the horizon.
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