Are windowless planes the future of air travel?

TransportUnited Kingdom

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TECHNOLOGY: The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has recently announced that its developers are working on windowless fuselages for planes, using ultra-flexible, HD screens for a lighter and more ecological aircraft.

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  • The seat setup in a windowless plane
    Windowsless Airplane Cpi Centre for Process Innovation
    The seat setup in a windowless plane
  • View from the back of a windowless plane
    Windowsless Airplane Cpi Centre for Process Innovation
    View from the back of a windowless plane
  • Windowless plane in darkness
    Windowsless Airplane Cpi Centre for Process Innovation
    Windowless plane in darkness
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Talking to the Guardian, the CPI's Dr Jon Helliwell said: "What would be great would be to make devices based on OLEDs that are flexible. We can make transistors that are flexible but if we can make OLEDs that are flexible, that gives us a lot of potential in the market because we can print OLEDs on to packaging, we can create flexible displays."

The UK developer is hoping to offer passengers panoramic views of the Earth's surface via organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens, which would transmit live footage from cameras attached to the plane's exterior. Developments are currently underway to create flexible screens which would merge seamlessly with the cabin's interior, as well as seatbacks and other spaces. In theory, passengers would be able to personalise their own space by adjusting the lighting, changing the view or watching in-flight entertainment on the multi-purpose screens.

According to the CPI, a windowless fuselage would reduce the weight of a plane dramatically, meaning less CO2 emissions and significantly lower operational costs for airlines. It would also optimise space with the ultra-thin screens replacing thicker safety glass, currently used to resist cracking at 35,000 feet. Though the CPI hopes to have the technology ready in 10 years' time, windowless planes will likely only become a reality for plane passengers in 20-30 years due to the nature of the aviation industry.

"We are talking about [the idea] now because it matches the kind of development timelines that they have in the aerospace industry."

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Posted on 30/10/2014 Modified on 07/10/2015
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