Airbus Wants To Take The Cockpit Out Of The Cockpit Of The Future

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Airbus has received a U.S. Patent that could literally reshape the way planes are flown. The design will be like flying a drone, but the pilots still be on the plane, looking at a digitally displayed real-time image rather than through traditional cockpit windows.

You're probably wondering why Airbus would need to do this? The patent shows they want to relocate the cockpit to another part of the aircraft, such as below the cabin floor where the cargo hold traditionally is. Another location could be at the back of the plane, inside the vertical stabilizer. This would be done in order to improve aerodynamics at the front of the aircraft. After all, the more aerodynamic the plane is, the less drag is created, and the less fuel is burned. This of course saves a lot of money for the airlines.

But will airlines and the traveling public go for this? Will they balk at the thought of the pilots sitting in front of what amounts to a big computer screen? Can you imagine flying along, knowing the pilots are sitting behind you? Most commercial planes couldn't fit a pilot inside the width of the tail, especially two pilots. If they moved the cockpit below the cabin, that would take up space normally reserved for luggage and lucrative cargo.


Patent drawing showing pilots located beneath the main cabin and within the tail.


This unconventional idea throws over 100 years of thinking right out the window. Looking at the pilot's instrument console (top photo), I immediately thought "Star Trek" — imagining the plane being controlled by the pilot's voice and gestures. And you think autopilot is easy now? What if the Captain could simply speak, "Ascend to 37,000 feet. Change heading to two seven zero."

But to play devil's advocate, there's nothing more reliable than your own eyesight. With this design, a pilot surrenders his/her vision to what is presented on a panoramic screen, and fed from a live camera mounted on the plane. What if a bird or a big hailstone impacts the camera? Even something as simple as flying through a swarm of bugs could impact what pilots are able to see. Maybe the camera will be able to clean itself, like those we see during automobile races?


You've gotta hand it to Airbus, for thinking outside the box. Another interesting patent they hold is a cell for potential hijackers, where they'd fall through a trap door while trying to intrude upon the flight deck. The new cockpit design is a fascinating idea, with a major proof-of-concept burden, though I do think it's something we could see in the future, perhaps 20 or so years from now. What do you think? Tell us if you think we'll ever see an airlines flown this way, and whether you'd hesitate to fly on it.

All informartoin and images were taken from the publicly available document published by the US Patent and Trademark Office