<p><strong>An experimental<a href="http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/improvingflight/x48b.html"> Boeing X-48B</a> aircraft sports a unique design that smoothly combines its body and wings. The X-48B's "blended wing body" could become a popular template for commercial passenger planes in the coming decades because of its fuel-saving potential, according to a new report by the<a href="http://www.imeche.org/Home"> U.K.'s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)</a>.</strong></p><p>Entitled<a href="http://www.imeche.org/Aero-2075"> "Aero 2075: Flying Into A Bright Future?"</a>, the report examines game-changing concepts that could reshape air travel.</p><p>The blended wing body design, for instance, merges the fuselage, wings, and engines in an airplane into a single surface, which "means you've only got one surface to lift, with increased aerodynamic efficiency," explained Philippa Oldham, head of transport at IMechE and the lead author of the new report.</p><p>"With the current 'cigar tube with wings' design, which has a larger surface area, this leads to an increase in drag, and therefore the aircraft is less aerodynamically efficient."</p><p>(Related <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/01/photogalleries/airbus/index.html">pictures: "Airbus Unveils A380 'Superjumbo' Jet."</a>)</p><p>—<em>Ker Than</em></p>

Merging the Elements

An experimental Boeing X-48B aircraft sports a unique design that smoothly combines its body and wings. The X-48B's "blended wing body" could become a popular template for commercial passenger planes in the coming decades because of its fuel-saving potential, according to a new report by the U.K.'s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

Entitled "Aero 2075: Flying Into A Bright Future?", the report examines game-changing concepts that could reshape air travel.

The blended wing body design, for instance, merges the fuselage, wings, and engines in an airplane into a single surface, which "means you've only got one surface to lift, with increased aerodynamic efficiency," explained Philippa Oldham, head of transport at IMechE and the lead author of the new report.

"With the current 'cigar tube with wings' design, which has a larger surface area, this leads to an increase in drag, and therefore the aircraft is less aerodynamically efficient."

(Related pictures: "Airbus Unveils A380 'Superjumbo' Jet.")

Ker Than

Photograph courtesy Robert Ferguson, Boeing/NASA

Pictures: Five Future Techs for Passenger Air Travel

Supersonic planes, flying in formation, and mid-air refueling are some of the concepts that could reshape air travel, a new report says.

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