5 New Technologies That Will Be in Commercial Planes Soon

By Debbie Owen

August 5, 2010

Taking flight could mean some innovative changes in the near future. From wifi to planes with a smaller carbon footprint, the industry is changing to make flying easier and more manageable for flight crews and passengers.

1. Airplanes that use less fuel.

You may not drive a car and you may recycle, but if you take to the skies more than three times per year, you have a considerable carbon footprint. Scientists have developed an accessible eco-friendly jetliner that uses 70% less fuel than standard jets. We’ve all seen great ideas like this get shot down by bureaucratic decisions before, but because these jets are made by the same manufacturers using the same parts of conventional planes, it may be a change we seen sooner than you think.

2. Airplanes that detect ash.

Following 2010’s European ash debacle, airliners are looking for ways to keep passengers safe while flying over ash-prone areas. Economy airline company, EasyJet PLC is getting ready to implement infrared technology on the fin of commercial airplanes to detect ash up to 100 kilometers away. This technology is already in use by some airlines for detecting thunderstorms, but must be upgraded to detect ash in the atmosphere. EasyJet PLC doesn’t have the kinks worked out for getting this on all of their commercial planes, but they are spending approximately 1.52 billion dollars to make it work.

3. Free wifi access on planes.

This one is something that’s been in the works for a few years now. Airlines don’t want to offer free wifi access to passengers. After all, we’re already paying for checking our luggage and no longer get snacks, so why would we expect anything else for free? Companies like Route 44 are teaming with airlines and major companies to give us wifi with ads while on a plane. This gives advertisers a chance to reach out to desirable customers and gives customers a chance to play, work or shop while traveling. Virgin Airlines offered free wifi service for a limited time, but now has joined other airlines in charging about $5 an hour to access the Internet while in transit.

4. Cell phones on planes.

Believe it or not, the U.S. is among the last places to offer cell phone service on a plane. This is because the FCC prevents it and has legislation pending to permanently ban in-flight cell phone calls. While the cell phone may seem like a helpful tool on a plane, it may also be cumbersome for those around you to listen to your chit-chat whether it’s work-related or not. Still, when there’s money to be made, you can expect this “perk” (that you’ll likely have to pay for) to be available on U.S. planes in the next couple of years.

5. Satellite TV on planes.

Canadian carrier WestJet already has satellite TV in their planes and it will only be a matter time of before other airlines follow suit. This involves a partnership with a satellite company, in WestJet’s case, this is Bell Canada. This service allows passengers to turn on the screen in front of them and watch TV shows that are on the air versus the pre-selected TV shows and episodes provided by most airlines. While this may not be a huge deal, it is an incentive for passengers with children, namely tweens. Airlines often offer drama and comedy channels, along with a set of shows aimed at very young children with little for the tween and teen set. Satellite TV would allow kids to watch their favorite shows and programming they’re familiar with, thus allowing their parents to fly peacefully.

The way we fly is changing and within the next few years, you’ll see a significant difference in flight travel when it comes to making things easier and more accessible.

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