Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Future of Environmentally Freindly Aviation

As we all know, flying things (also known as aircrafts, rockets, fighter jets etc), are the biggest contributors to emissions of greenhouse gases (definition: It was made very clear by environmentalists that an excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can have stern consequences for the future of our planet. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way an environmentalist or a hippie; I just think it would be interesting to see how the world could switch from total-dependence on greenhouse emitting fuels to renewable energy that has very little damaging effects on our environment.

I am a student at the University of Sheffield. I’m undertaking an MSc in Aerodynamics and Aerostructures. I had the privilege to participate in a university challenge, be part of a team that will make a difference (or not) to the future of aviation (and our planet). The challenge is to design an airship (you know, those fake flying things kept airborne by a huge helium balloon) that emits no greenhouse gases whatsoever (like that’s possible). The only problem was that the only source of energy for the airship is the sun, well that’s what it said on the requirements sheet. I was shocked. How the hell are we supposed get energy from the sun. I realised that there are these flat square panels called “solar panels” (I know you know what they are, don’t try to impress me with your knowledge). It also has to fly for like 72 months (72 hours) and be capable of withstanding weather changes and turbulence.

So there you have it. An environmentally-friendly, no-greenhouse gases-emitting, ugly flying thing (airship). I honestly think that it’s possible. What do you think? And what does this mean to the future of aviation. Will we have to make a compromise between how fast we get to where we’re going and how fresh the air we breathe is? Will we have to travel using balloons? (that’s a problem, it’s not a very manly thing). In the future not everyone will be able to afford modern day travelling, plane tickets will be ridiculously expensive as fuel prices soar.

One last problem, imagine this. Let’s say we reached a point in the future where we would be punished (by our earth) for our decadent ways, the way we abused oil, the way we neglected our environment, the way we’d rather drive a 6L V12 engine car than a small electric powered one. Let’s say that we were “forced” to only consume renewable energy, could you imagine how the wars would be like. Commander: “launch the airstrike”, then from the horizon we see a flock of flying things (future fighter jets), approaching slowly, very slowly. Then they finally appear in sight, it’s the “Airship Task Force”, 10’s of airships flying through the air with guns and rocket launchers attached to them. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? You can drop one of them with a rock. I mean what kind of war would that be, the less developed country being invaded by this airship army would most certainly win. We don’t want less developed countries to win now do we? I’m joking. (If anyone was offended by the above paragraph, it was strictly a joke, don’t take it to heart J )

What I’m trying to say is this, by the way things are going, the future is only bright for those who can afford it. I say with enough research and contingency planning we can replace modern day fuels with renewable fuels to an extent that is affordable by everyone.


Omer said...

I disagree with your synthesis. In the long run, i do not expect the trade-off between performance and environmentally friendliness to persist.

Mohammed Salah Farah said...
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Jabz said...

I agree with your synthesis. The fact is that fossil fuels are finite sources and the way you put it (with the whole airship thing) is what will happen if we don't work on solutions to the "fuel" problem now as I don't see airships as being a suitable alternative for traveling from one continent to another, I'd rather ride a camel instead which would probably be more time efficient.

Second thing is, how will your airship work at night if it is going to be powered by solar panels? and are biofuels considered as an alternative to current aviation fuel in the future?

Finally I congratulate thee fatness on the blog.. rock on dude!!.. hahaaayy..za3et..