Blue Sky Thinking
North-East England isn’t a very sunny place. Perhaps that’s what inspired the CPI, a product development organisation, to come up with this genius idea. The CPI is one of seven bodies under the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an umbrella group which receives government funding to drive growth in manufacturing.
The aviation industry has a problem. How do you reduce weight, thereby cutting fuel consumption, thereby bringing down fares? According to them, for every 1% reduction in the weight of an aircraft, there is a saving in fuel of 0.75%.
Oddly enough, one of the things that makes planes heavy is the need to put in tiny windows, because the fuselage needs to be strengthened to allow for them. So what happens if you get rid of them all, as you would in a cargo plane?
Well, you get a very dark, scary-looking plane that has a smaller carbon footprint and is cheaper to run. So what about the inside? This is where organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) come in – they give out their own light when activated by electricity. The problems with the technology involve price and their sensitivity to moisture, which means they have to be encased in inflexible glass, (as in mobiles and televisions).
But now there are flexible OLEDs, which would allow the creation of screens suitable for planes. Electronics company LG recently posted a video of an 18-inch (46cm) screen which bends and contorts while the images on screen are broadcast uninterrupted.
The technology is set to advance over the next few years, so that much larger areas can be covered with the super-thin projections system. So why not show exactly what’s going on outside in real time throughout the cabin? You create a calmer atmosphere, a feeling of more space and light, and save the aviation industry a fortune. It’s a decade away yet and there are all kinds of hurdles, but personally speaking I’d love to see it happen – even if it’s probably a fearful flyer’s very worst nightmare.