If there's one area where the 21st century has gone backwards technologically, it's in supersonic passenger flight. With the grounding of the Concorde fleets in 2003, flying faster than the speed of sound reverted to a military monopoly, but that hasn't kept engineers from trying for a revival. Now Airbus' Marco Prampolini and Yohann Coraboeuf have been granted a US patent for an "ultra-rapid air vehicle" designed to fly at 20 km (12.4 mi) higher than conventional aircraft and over four times the speed of sound – twice the speed of Concorde.
Ever since the retirement of Concorde, the aviation industry has looked forward to the rebirth of civilian supersonic air travel.
The question is, will it be an airliner or something else? Spike
Aerospace is betting that it will be a business jet – to be specific,
the Spike Aerospace S-512 supersonic jet, which was unveiled as a concept in 2013. The company has now released its latest design.
NASA has put a new supersonic parachute design through its paces in the second test of its flying saucer-like Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD). The technology is being developed for future exploration of Mars, where it would allow NASA and its partners to land heavier payloads on the surface.
The Concorde may be just a memory, but some aircraft manufacturers still see supersonic aircraft as the future of civilian aviation. To allow for widespread supersonic flight over populated areas without shattering windows and frightening chickens, electronics firm Rockwell Collins has been awarded a two-year NASA contract to develop a 3D cockpit display to help pilots of future supersonic aircraft to mitigate or eliminate sonic booms.