In this chapter the committee proposes six critical technology thrust areas for new air vehicle configurations that could achieve NASA's eight air transportation-related goals.
advanced air vehicle configurations—designs with reduced weight, improved aerodynamic performance, and highly integrated airframe/propulsion systems that are substantially different from current air vehicle configurations. Advanced configurations could have a major impact on reducing the cost of air travel and improving the aviation system throughput and could enable the development of a high-speed civil transport aircraft that would reduce travel time to the Far East and Europe.
embedded sensors and controls—intelligent gas turbine engines that can control aeroacoustic, aerodynamic, aerothermodynamic, and aeromechanical instabilities, and aircraft with embedded active control systems for controlling loads, reducing drag, and monitoring health. Embedded sensors and controls could reduce noise, emissions, and costs through more effective diagnosis and maintenance processes.
structures and materials—low-cost composite materials, including the manufacturing processes associated with them, new corrosion-resistant, damage-tolerant alloys, and engineered and smart materials. Advanced structures and materials could lead to reduced fabrication and life-cycle costs and reduced travel time (by enabling economically viable commercial supersonic flight) and could expand the general aviation market by creating more options for designing efficient, cost-effective aircraft.
advanced propulsion and power—innovative approaches to gas turbine engines with substantially fewer parts and enhanced performance through active control. This technology area could also include propulsion systems with no rotating components (such as pulse detonation wave engines), alternative engine concepts, and alternative fuels. Advanced propulsion and power technologies could contribute to reductions in noise, emissions, air travel cost, and travel time (with high-speed commercial flight).
advanced manufacturing—automated manufacturing, including precision manufacturing, automated assembly, and fabrication by light, as well as further applications of lean manufacturing techniques. The major impact of advanced manufacturing would be to reduce the cost of commercial aircraft and possibly the cost of general aviation aircraft.
computer-based design, modeling, and simulation—virtual design and testing that could replace, or at least greatly reduce, the time and cost of testing aircraft and propulsion systems and could provide the capability for multidisciplinary design