Fly Your Ideas Challenges 2013

We would like students to propose ideas for the six key challenges for aviation in the 21st Century. For more information about each of the challenge areas click on the challenge you are interested in. 
  • Energy


    Ideas for reducing energy consumption, harvesting/recovery, or identifying sustainable sources. 
  • Efficiency


    Enhanced aerodynamic performance, weight reduction, and maintainability. 
  • Affordable Growth

    Affordable Growth

    Low cost manufacturing processes, materials, operations & disposal. 
  • Traffic Growth

    Traffic Growth

    Management of aircraft missions, air traffic & ground operations. 
  • Passenger Experience

    Passenger Experience

    Cabin of the future, integrated transport systems or improved airport operations. 
  • Community Friendliness

    Community Friendliness

    Reducing noise levels, improving air quality and easing ground traffic.


As traditional fossil based fuels become scarce and corresponding prices rise we encourage ideas for reducing energy consumption, increasing energy harvesting/recovery and for identifying sustainable sources of renewable energy that don't compete with food, land and water resources. 


Biofuels are key to meeting ACARE FlightPath 2050 goals (see link below); Airbus is at the forefront with partners across the globe and is pioneering the introduction of sustainable biofuels, which will make a major impact on CO2 emissions from aviation. Biofuels should eliminate CO2 emissions from engines - their plant supply sources fix CO2 as they grow - offsetting what will be emitted when they are burned. 

Find out more: Biofuels 

Video: Click here
    Fuel Cells
A fuel cell is a device that transforms the energy of hydrogen into electricity (by combining the hydrogen with oxygen in a 'cold' combustion). The only waste is water, heat and oxygen depleted air, so no emissions and no noise!

What's more, the water produced from the process can be used by the aircraft's water and waste systems, which saves extra water having to be carried on board. This reduces weight, which in turn reduces fuel burn and emissions even further. 

It is unlikely that fuel cell technology will be used as the main power source in the near future. Instead engineers are looking at using it for the cabin and aircraft systems, to power things like air conditioning or starting the engine. 

Find out more: Fuel Cells 
Video: Click here
  Energy Harvesting/Scavenging

Some of the energy sources being investigated by 2050 might seem far fetched by today's standards. What about harvesting body heat for example? Instead of producing energy, this would simply collect energy, from say the passenger's seat, and redirect it to power some of the aircraft functions, like the cabin lights. 

Previous ideas developed for the Airbus Fly Your Ideas Challenge have included topics such as energy recovery from engine heat and vibration. 

Find out more: Energy Harvesting
    Airbus Egenius

Airbus is also looking at electic, emission free propulsion, and is supporting basic research activities for electric aircraft concepts. 

The "eGenius" technology demonstrator, an electrical propelled two-seater aircraft designed by the Institute of Aircraft Design at the University of Stuttgart, Germany, was presented for the first time at the international Aero-Expo in Friedrichshafen, Germany, in 2011. Six weeks later, "eGenius" performed its maiden flight. 

Find out more: eGenius


Aircraft with improved performance and reduced environmental impact are increasingly in demand. Therefore the aviation industry requires new ideas in areas such as enhanced aerodynamic performance, weight reduction, improved maintainability and reliability. The below outlines some background information on this challenge you may find useful. 

    The Airbus Concept Plane

Airbus experts in aircraft materials, aerodynamics and engines came up with a Concept Plane design that is an "engineer's dream", and as such has the potential to significantly improve improving airframe efficiency.

The Airbus Concept Plane brings together a package of technologies, which although feasible, are unlikely to ever coexist in this manner. So it is not a plane that will fly, but it highlights some of the challenges and decisions that lie ahead for air travel, and it illustrates the main technologies being explored in anticipation of the future needs of passengers and their planet. 

Find out more: Concept Plane

  Composite Materials

The A350 XWB already contains 53% composite materials in its fuselage and wing, which results in 60% lower fatigue and corrosion maintenance, as well as reduction in weight, relative to aluminium.

This provides a 25% reduction in fuel burn & seat mile cost - this results in major environmental benefits such as lowest CO2 emissions and NOx emissions up to 35% below CAEP6 (Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection - Sixth meeting, Montreal, Canada, 2-12 February 2004)

Find out more: Composite Materials

Coupled with 'runway overrun prevention system' (ROPS), reinforces safety of landing by preventing runway excursions Brake-To-Vacate provides a means to reduce the runway occupation required per plane at airports. 

Find out more: Brake-To-Vacate

Read the expert advice on Efficiency from Simon Weselby

Affordable Growth

Growing demand to introduce new improved aircraft and service solutions into the air transport system requires that fleet replacement and upgrades need to be affordable. Therefore ideas for lower cost manufacturing processes, materials, equipment, operations and disposal must be developed. 

    Additive Layer Manufacturing Technology

In 2011, Airbus Group produced the world's first bike using revolutionary ALM technology - 'grown' from high-strength nylon powder. The revolutionary manufacturing process is known as Additive Layer Manufacturing (or ALM) and it allows single products to be grown from a fine powder of metal (such as titanium, stainless steel or aluminium), nylon or carbon-reinforced plastics from a centre located next to Airbus' site at Filton. When mature, this technology will enable engineers to design and manufacture more accurate parts with less weight and with no waste materials. 

Find out more:  Additive Layer Technology
    Out-Of-Autoclave Composites

Airbus is now using out of autoclave epoxy composite materials to manufacture the outer and mid-section fixed trailing edge panels for the Airbus A350 XWB aircraft wing. This material has been chosen for its high toughness, low density and ability to produce low void content parts using vacuum bag moulding. Making composite parts without using an autoclave significantly reduces the energy needed for the manufacturing process. 

Find out more: Out-of-Autoclave
    Lean Processes

Lean manufacturing, lean enterprise, or lean production is a practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. The implementation of Lean principles is a core, strategic objective within Airbus, and all Lean business activities are now coordinated at a global level by Lean Centre of Competence - established to plan, manage and implement the Airbus Lean strategy throughout the organisation. 

Find out more: Lean Processes

Traffic Growth

In the next 15 years it is forecast that aviation passenger traffic will more than double placing strong pressure on the capacity of air transport systems. To support this demand we want to inspire innovative ideas to improve the management of aircraft missions, air traffic control and ground operations. 
    Formation Flying

In nature, large birds sometimes fly together to save energy and travel further. When flying in formation, the leading bird's wings generate whirling masses of air. The following bird benefits from this air current to get some free extra lift, which means it needs to use less energy to fly.

Airbus is working with some of its partners to explore this idea as a way to reduce both fuel burn and emissions on long distance flights. Trials have already been undertaken with the A400M and have shown that planes could fly in formation with some adaptions. In fact, this approach was also proposed by a young team of graduate engineers who made it to the final of the 2009 Airbus Fly Your Ideas challenge.  

Find out more: Smarter Skies 
Video: Formation Flying
    Air Traffic Management (ATM)

Airbus is dedicated to the development and support of a modern Air Traffic Management (ATM) system in order to optimise the use of airspace worldwide. It aims to deliver new ATM capabilities and improvements which will allow aircraft to fly the most direct routes, reduce traffic congestions and delays, minimize aircraft fuel consumption and their environmental footprint and help reduce the overall cost of air navigation service providers (ANSPs) through greater automation. 

Airbus is highly involved in ATM programmes such as the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) in Europe, as well as NextGen in the US. 

Today, through an enhanced ATM system allowing for free flight (or self-organised flight), and assuming 30 million flights per year - every flight in the world could on average be 13 minutes shorter. This would mean saving 9m tonnes of excess fuel annually, which equates to 28m tonnes of avoidable CO2, as well as 500 million hours of excess flight time for passengers on board aircraft. 

In 2050 (assuming a 4-fold increase in air traffic), savings could be 24m tonnes of fuel saved, which equates to 76m tonnes of CO2.

Find out more: Eurocontrol Research

Video: Traffic Growth
    Airbus ProSky

Comprised of recognized subject matter experts and offering intelligent ATM solutions that maximize efficiency, capacity and environmental sustainability, the Airbus ProSKy Group, a subsidiary of Airbus, is committed to working side-by-side with ANSPs, aircraft operators and airport authorities to build a truly collaborative system with greater capacity, better performance and environmental sustainability for all stakeholders. Airbus ProSky Group members include Metron Aviation, Quovadis and ATRiCS, brought together to improve the performance and efficiency of the global airspace.

The Group delivers groundbreaking ATM research and development, Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM), Surface Management (SMAN), Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) and Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) solutions. 

Find out more: ProSky

The Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking is an ambitious initiative launched by the European Commission in 2004 which aims to reform European Air Traffic Management. SESAR 2020 - 2025 objectives include tripling the worldwide airspace capacity, reducing ATM costs per controlled flight by 50% and reducing the environmental impact per flight by 10%.  Achieving such goals requires a shift from airspace-based to trajectory-based operations and step-change technologies in three main areas: navigation, surveillance and communication. 

Airbus is a major contributor to the SEAR JU, and is leading the aircraft work package which defines onboard solutions to meet operational improvement targets identified in the SESAR Master Plan. It also greatly contributes to additional operational work packages and the validation infrastructure. 

In February 2012 as part of its SESAR research, Airbus achieved its first I4D flight (see link below). Airbus will reach other major SESAR milestones this year and into 2016.

Find out more: Airbus SESAR 

Find out more: SESAR - Airbus Research 

Video: Sesar
    The Perfect Flight

Air France and Airbus have completed the world's greenest commercial flight by combining the latest fuel and air traffic management technologies. The flight from Toulouse-Blagnac to Paris-Orly using an Airbus A321 has been able to demonstrate the cutting in half of CO2 emitted compared to a regular flight. 

The (AF6129) commercial flight combined for the first time the use of bio-fuels (50 per cent in each engine), optimised air traffic management (ATM) and efficient Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) to minimise CO2 emissions. Combining these technologies helped half the overall CO2 emissions to 54 grams per passenger and kilometre. This is equivalent to a fuel efficiency of 2.2 litres of fuel per passenger and 100 Kilometres.

Find out more: Perfect Flight

  Global Market Forecast 2012 - 2031

Airbus' Global Market Forecast for 2012-2031 offers a forward-looking view of the air transport sector's evolution - taking into account such drivers and factors as population growth, urbanization, emerging markets, innovation and environmental impact.

During this period, Airbus foresees the need for some 27,300 passenger airliners with seating capactities of 100 seats and above, along with nearly 900  new factory-built freighter aircraft. The Global Market Forecast also anticipates a more than doubling of the world's overall passenger aircraft inventory, from 15,500 today to more than 32,500 by 2031.

Find out more: Market Forecast

Passenger Experience

The traveller expects a seamless, comfortable and efficient travel experience with ready access to services and facilities throughout their journey. Ideas could therefore address the cabin of the future, as well as integrated transport systems or improved airport operations. 

  The Airbus Concept Cabin

Based on extensive research into the way the world's population is changing, the Airbus Concept Cabin illustrates what the future of flight might look like from the passengers' perspective. Inspired by nature - and designed to protect it  - aircraft cabins of the future will be customised to the needs of individual passengers. 

The Airbus Concept Cabin adheres to the Airbus passenger-centric innovation approach which combines 360 degree trend research investigating the future passenger needs and serving these needs with sustainable next generation technologies. 

The Airbus Concept Cabin is thus an optimal case to experience how research on the future passenger needs and the next generation green technologies are combined to offer the next level of a future passenger experience: A flying experience inspired by nature. 

Find out more: Concept Cabin
    Cabin Pod Concept

What good are more comfortable, eco-efficient aircraft if the passengers have to spend hours on end in crowded airports? The air transport system of the future will have to be much more practical than today. Perhaps taking an aircraft could become as simple as taking the underground, utilizing the same style of boarding platforms right alongside. Or maybe passengers will already be seated in cabin pods before the aircraft actually arrives, ready to collect the pre-loaded passengers, saving time and making life simple and convenient. 

Video: Airbus Pod Concept
  Airbus Passenger 2050 Research

Understanding the passengers of tomorrow is key for Airbus and is at the heart of 'The Future by Airbus' initiative, and the Airbus-commissioned international passenger 2050 study. Here are the key findings:

  • 69% expect to fly overseas more by 2050, by which time they anticipate taking 63% more flights
  • Reasons include economic growth; a desire to see more of the world; the need to see friends and family spread across the globe; and greater flexibility between home and the workplace
  • 97% said that in the future aircraft will have to be more sustainable
  • In the future passengers have told us they want to get to their destinations quicker, to fly more direct routes, with fewer delays and less stress. They feel delays are often caused by ATC.
  • Airbus research demonstrates that inefficiencies in current aircraft operations lead to passenger delays, and an unnecessary use of fuel and emissions, meaning and estimate of 12-13 mins excess time per flight or a worldwide annual value of excess passenger time of 1.5bn USD per minute of excess time. 
     Find out more: 2050 Research

View infographic 1: Click here  

View infographic 2: Click here

Read the expert advice on this Challenge from Andy Williams  or Nicolas Tschechne

Community Friendliness

As airports are closely embedded in our cities, we must maintain a harmonious co-existence with local residents. Ideas identifying new approaches for reducing noise levels, improving air quality and easing ground traffic could be proposed. 

    Noise Shielding

Reducing noise from aircraft operations percieved by airport neighbouring communities is a major challenge. Over the last decades, significant noise reduction has been achieved via the application of a wide range of technologies on the engine turbomachinery, the engine nacelle and the airframe.

While these technologies helped reduce noise at source, recent studies and acoustic experiments have been conducted in the field of noise shielding. In order to further reduce noise perceived on ground by shielding the engine noise sources with one or more airframe surfaces, one could imagine unconventional designs with engines installed on top of the airplane body or wings for instance.

Engine position on the airframe must be studied with care in order to maximise noise shielding while minimizing any adverse impact on weights, drag and overall performance.

Find out more: Noise Shielding 
    Owl-inspired Landing Gear

Over 20 million years, owls have evolved serrated feathers on their wings and downy feathers on their legs, which minimise aerodynamic noise. While modern aircraft already produce 75% less noise than those built 40 years ago, Airbus engineers are studying owls to further unlock the secrets of silent flight. Ideas include a retractable brush-like fringe to mimic the owl's trailing feathers and velvety coating on aircraft landing gear.  

Find out more: Landing Gear 
    E-Taxi/Taxi Bot

On landing aircraft engines could be switched off sooner, runways cleared faster and ground handling emissions could be cut. 

Technology could optimise an aircraft's landing position with enough accuracy for an autonomous renewably powered taxiing carriage to be ready, so aircraft could be transported away from runways quicker, which would optimise terminal space, and remove runway and gate limitations. 

In 2011, for the first time ever electric motors were installed on the main landing gear of a commercial aircraft taking over all necessary movements of an aircraft on ground. L-3 Communications, Fraport, as well as Lufthansa German Airlines and Lufthansa Technik, with Airbus support, teamed up to jointly test the technology demonstrator which might lead to a new way for aircraft to taxi. 

Find out more: E-Taxi

Lufthansa Etaxi: Click here