Computational creativity and the future of AI

Boeing Sugar Volt looks to the skies in the year 2035


August 2, 2010

Boeing SUGAR Volt concept design (Image: NASA/The Boeing Company)

Boeing SUGAR Volt concept design (Image: NASA/The Boeing Company)

Image Gallery (2 images)

Although the theme of AirVenture 2010 was "Salute to Veterans," the future of air travel was also brought to the fore – and that means electric airplanes. The focus on e-aviation culminated in the World Symposium of Electric Aircraft last Friday and among the many interesting designs discussed was Boeing's Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) Volt concept. Borne out of the same NASA research program that gave birth to MIT's D “double bubble” concept, the SUGAR Volt is a twin-engine aircraft design notable for its trussed, elongated wings and electric battery gas turbine hybrid propulsion system – a system designed to reduce fuel burn by more than 70 percent and total energy use by 55 percent. Could this be the future shape of commercial air transportation?

The SUGAR Volt (a choice of name that Chevrolet might have something to say about) is envisioned as running on either fuel or electricity and could include hinges in the wing design so that they could be folded when on the ground. It is designed to fly at Mach 0.79, carry 154 passengers over a range of 3,500 nautical miles and achieve shorter takeoff distance.

A second Boeing-led design known as Icon II was also put forward in the NASA research program. This concept uses a split tail design to achieve supersonic flight over land with reduced fuel burn and noise. Icon II could carry The Icon II concept can carry 120 passengers, cruise at Mach 1.6 to Mach 1.8 and achieve a range of about 5,000 nautical miles.

Boeing Icon II concept design (Image: NASA/The Boeing Company)

The goals of the NASA supersonic research program included a 71-decibel reduction below current Federal Aviation Administration noise standards, a greater than 75 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, a greater than 70 percent reduction in fuel burn performance and reduced air traffic congestion and delays at airports.

The program was targeted at designs that could be feasible in the 2030-2035 time frame. It concluded in April and further research announcements are expected.

Via Boeing / NASA.

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007.   All articles by Noel McKeegan

Now THIS is good stuff! :-)

3rd August, 2010 @ 04:32 am PDT

Actually, this genuinely could be the face of future aviation, but the most pivotal, relevant question: How much will it cost me to check my bag? Ralph L. Seifer, Long Beach, California

3rd August, 2010 @ 09:15 am PDT

I think this concept assumes a drastic reduction in the weight of storage batteries, or perhaps it's assumed there will be efficient, lightweight, inexpensive fuel cells and some means to store sufficient quantities of hydrogen under low pressure.

William H Lanteigne
3rd August, 2010 @ 11:38 am PDT

First, the wing span is too long. Very few airports will be able to accommodate this aircraft...

Second...max of 154 people? What is this, the reincarnation of the DC-9?

Third. Prop? The prop noise would be enough to make me *NOT* want to fly in this thing.

.79 mach. about three quarters the speed of sound. This sounds like an aircraft for municipal or executive airports...except none of those would be able to handle the wingspan!

3rd August, 2010 @ 02:19 pm PDT

The wings fold. Do you need wings to taxi?

Nobody should be anywhere too close on landing or takeoff.

3rd August, 2010 @ 07:08 pm PDT

Although the images do not reveal the design details, Image 1 appears to be conventional nose heavy with modified tail and long wings. The fortified anchorage of the wings to fueslage is noticeable. Image 2 design is quite unique and unconventional with rear engines, blended wings; the CG movement, pitching control and effects of complex turbulence will be quite interesting to observe.

S P S Sabharwal
3rd August, 2010 @ 11:50 pm PDT

there isn't really a good replacement for jetA fuel, the power to weight ratio of any other power source stinks, batteries will not come close to a 1 to 1 ratio with jetA for the near future and unlike jetA, you are still lugging around the full weight of the battery after it isn't giving full power, once you burn jetA the weight is gone from the aircraft. Weight is the biggest design factor in any aircraft.

Facebook User
26th September, 2010 @ 05:14 am PDT

It like reinventing Concord all over again with all the problems that it had, it is not the way to go. High-speed travel can only go in one direction, which is into space around the globe and back in again. It makes more sense.

Mac Sharry Gerard
21st June, 2011 @ 02:13 pm PDT
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