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Certain future aircraft will have capabilities that today's planes just don't possess. An example of this is the SAX-40. A group of 40 engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and England´s University of Cambridge has unveiled designs for this commercial aircraft. Thanks to a host of noise-silencing innovations, this liner which houses 215 seats, could be virtually inaudible outside the airport. The aircraft will emit just 63 decibels at takeoff, about as loud as an average conversation. Today´s airliners hit up to 150 decibels. Here's what it looks like:

Sax-40

Just as a bird uses different feathers on its wings to control flight, aircraft wing shapes can be designed to change and adapt to constantly changing conditions of flight. Or, an aircraft can mimic the way a bird lands, greatly decreasing the amount of fuel and runway space required. NASA has built a jet that actually changes shape and it's called the Active Aeroelastic Wing  (AAW) F/A-18. Here it is, below.

NASA Morph

DARPA’s goals (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for a project called Vulture are important: 5 years on station with a 450kg/ 1,000lb payload, 5kW of onboard power, and sufficient loiter speed to stay on station for 99% of the time against winds encountered at 60,000-90,000 feet. The system could act as a satellite substitute for communications relay or reconnaissance, as long as the payload fit within the weight limit. Vulture would be more vulnerable to anti-aircraft missiles than a satellite, and could be targeted by fighter jets as well given the right launch profile; on the other hand, that closeness would improve sensor resolution and communications capability. Below, Boeing's concept of Vulture:

Boeing Vulture

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