One of the concepts introduces at the Airbus competition wants to utilise body heat to maintain comfortable cabin temperature

Methane powered plane among Airbus's students' ideas

Planes powered by body heat, luggage floating on a bed of air or methane powered aircraft  are among ideas, developed by students from across the world, that could one day feature on future aircraft.

The ‘Fly Your Ideas’ competition encouraged engineering and design talent worldwide to put forward radical concepts aimed at sustainable future of the aviation industry.

Run by Airbus and supported by UNESCO, the challenge offers a €30,000 prize to the best team. Today, Airbus has introduced five finalist teams that will be invited to Airbus headquarters in Toulouse to present their ideas to a panel of judges.

An Australian team submitted an idea for a plane powered by cow produced methane. The solution that utilises liquefied methane placed in specially-created super cooled pods next to the engines could reduce CO2 emissions by a remarkable 97 per cent.

An Italian team approached the problem of emission reduction and fuel saving from different perspective. They have designed a battery-powered engine with specially-shaped rechargeable batteries dropped into the cargo hold. Only the required number of batteries are loaded dependent on mileage, optimising the plane's weight. In a short-haul flight, this solution could save up to 60 per cent of fuel resulting in an up to 40 per cent CO2 emission reduction.

A project of a team from India aims at reducing noise by using shape shifting materials in the engine and Malasian innovators introduced a concept of cabin heating powered by human body heat.

The competition’s goal is to boost the interest of young people in engineering disciplines as recent data shows that by 2020, high tech companies could face a serious shortage of skilled workers. The aerospace industry, together with motor and medical equipment sectors, is expected to be among those hardest hit.

"A recent UNESCO Engineering Report shows a marked shortage of engineers in many countries. Although the general number of engineering students is increasing worldwide, the proportion of those who enrol in engineering, as compared to other disciplines, is concernedly dropping”, said Dr Lidia Brito, Director of the Division of Science Policy and Capacity Building at UNESCO.

Charles Champion, Airbus’s Executive Vice President for Engineering and the competition’s patron said the challenge wants to show that there is more to engineering than just technical skills. "It is about having an innovative mind-set and a creative approach. But for our industry to succeed in making aviation carbon neutral by 2020, we need a constant source of fresh and inventive ideas from the innovators of today and those of tomorrow,” he said.

The Fly Your Ideas competition is trying to highlight growth opportunities available to young innovators, who might contribute to the future more sustainable aviation industry.

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