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“Greener Aviation” Technologies and Alternative Fuels Head AIAA List of Top 10 Emerging Aerospace Technologies

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has released its first annual list of top emerging aerospace technologies. Developed by AIAA’s Emerging Technologies Committee (ETC), the 2009 list comprises the following:

  1. “Greener Aviation” Technologies, including emission reduction and noise reduction technologies as used in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Continuous Low Emissions, Energy and Noise (CLEEN) program, and the European Environmentally Friendly Engine (EFE) program and “Clean Sky” Joint Technology Initiative.
  2. Alternative Fuels, including biofuels, as promoted by the FAA’s Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), and the recent FAA grant to the X Prize Foundation to spur development of renewable aviation fuels and technologies.
  3. High Speed Flight Technologies, such as supersonic and hypersonic aerodynamics, sonic boom reduction technology, and thermal management aids.
  4. Efficient Propulsion Technologies, including open rotors and geared turbofans, such as those used in the European DREAM (valiDation Radical Engine Architecture systeMs) program.
  5. Active Flow Technologies, such as plasma actuators.
  6. Advanced Materials, such as nanotechnology and composites.
  7. Active Structures, such as shape memory alloys, morphing, and flapping.
  8. Health Management, such as monitoring, prognostics, and self-healing.
  9. Remote Sensing Technologies, including unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites such as those used in NASA’s Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) program.
  10. Advanced Space Propulsion Technologies, including plasma-based propulsion such as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, and solar sail technologies.

AIAA’s list reflects the expertise of the members of the Emerging Technologies Committee, as well as the results of a specially commissioned study.

The list provides guidance to AIAA for its institute development strategy, while helping shape the annual input AIAA provides to the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. The technologies listed represent the aerospace technologies in which research and technology development is most active from a global perspective.

—ETC chair Dan Jensen

The ETC is composed of three technical subcommittees: Aviation, Space, and Multidisciplinary and System Technologies. AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession, with more than 35,000 individual members worldwide, and 90 corporate members.



The list is clearly created by rocket scientists. They seem to agree that renewable fuels might come in handy but it doesnt take much to get them lusting after hypersonics. (Item 3 on their top 10 list). My personal favourite? Item 7. Flapping will be a great help when there is no Jet A -1. Clearly the concept of peak oil seems to have eluded the nerds.


Wrong again.

Actively controlled micro flaps on wing surfaces similar to fish scales have been shown to provide dramatic fuel savings by reducing aerodynamic drag.


I would like to see jet fuel made from biomass. There is no reason we can not do this, we just have not. We watch fuel prices go up and then we complain. It is about time to get it in gear once and for all and quit waiting for something to occur that will never occur unless we DO it.


Call me old fashioned, call me simple, but you don't need low drag surfaces when there is no Jet-A1 to fly.
Current oil consumption rates means a new Saudi sized oil resource has to be found each 2 years.
US aviation alone uses 22 billion gallons a year, roughly 3 times the current output of the ethanol industry. But you cant fly 747s on ethanol or gasoline, only Jet-A1 will do. When oil prices soared last time 25 airlines went bust or stopped operations.


Magnetoplasma propulsion sounds kinda great except where to get the power for the RF and superconductor systems? And what about the blasted H2 tankage problem?

Aren't there far more efficient ways to generate viable plasmas? At low energy?

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