From supersonic to scramjet: 5 concept planes that blast past the speed of sound

There’s something about the London-to-New York route that has people dreaming about supersonic flight. We recently reported about the Skreemr (not a typo — that’s how it’s spelled, sadly), a concept scramjet that can travel at more than Mach 10, which means the high-hypersonic vehicle can fly between the two financial capitals in 30 minutes. In comparison, a regular plane takes approximately seven hours for a direct flight. Put on the Los Angeles to Sydney route, it can make the trip in 1.5 hours.

But the concept is just that: a vision for a design that may never leave the paper it’s drawn on. For decades there have been numerous proposals for high-speed air travel. Except for the Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-44, most remain theoretical machines.

Research into supersonic and hypersonic travel won’t stop, but that doesn’t mean we’ll see jets go into production anytime soon. Supersonic planes still need to figure out how to minimize sonic booms. Chris Goyne, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, told Forbes that while there’s interest in developing hypersonic jets for commercial purposes, they aren’t yet economically feasible — an issue the Concorde faced — and won’t be for at least another 25 years.

Goyne also said current computer simulations aren’t accurate enough to predict performance, not to mention what effects it would have on humans when traveling at that speed. But it’s still early days for hypersonic research. Boeing is already testing its unmanned X-51 WaveRider scramjet with success. So one day in the future, there may finally be an ultra-fast transatlantic replacement for the Concorde.

Here’s a look at recent concepts that have us dreaming.

Airbus Concorde 2

Airbus’ precursor, Aérospatiale, was the co-creator of the Concorde, a supersonic plane that traveled at Mach 2 and flew 3.5 hours each way between Europe and New York. Airbus recently filed a patent for a new aircraft that would be even faster, flying at Mach 4.5. Not quite hypersonic, but at that speed, it would cut the transatlantic travel time to one hour; it would take just three hours to fly between San Francisco and Paris or Los Angeles and Tokyo. The problem that plagues this sequel is the same that its predecessor encountered: the sonic boom effect. Too many of these jets in the air would drive people crazy. But Airbus says the new design limits that, thanks to the aerodynamics.

Read more here.

Aerion AS2 Supersonic Business Jet

Developed by Aerion and Airbus, the AS2 is a private, supersonic business jet for the elite. With a top speed of Mach 1.6, the $120-million AS2 can fly from New York to London in approximately four hours — essentially taking over where the Concorde left off (frankly, it was also toy for the super-rich). The 30-foot long cabin has room for only 11 passengers, which is fine, as it’ll keep it exclusive. Unlike the Concorde, the AS2 will use technology to minimize sonic boom, allowing it to possibly fly over land. What’s more exciting, compared to other concepts, is that it has a high chance of going into production. Aerion is already taking orders, with the first test flight scheduled for 2019 and delivery in 2023.

Read more here.

Spike S-512 Supersonic Jet

The S-512, from Boston-based Spike Aerospace, is very similar to the Aerion AS2 — almost no sonic boom, with a cruising speed of Mach 1.6. Initial designs for the 18-passenger supersonic business jet called for curved displays to cover the interior; instead of small windows, cameras would capture the exterior and project them on the displays, giving passengers the feeling of flying like Superman. The latest development shows a modified design with delta wings, but the key to eliminating the sonic boom is a fuselage that’s long, thin, and light. Early report suggests a 2018 launch, but the company itself hasn’t mentioned exact timing.

Read more here.

Lockheed Martin N+2 Supersonic Jet

While trans-oceanic flights are long, a transcontinental jaunt isn’t exactly a breeze either. But what if you could travel between New York and L.A. in 2.5 hours? That’s the goal of N+2, a supersonic jet developed by Lockheed Martin and NASA. Because of sonic booms, supersonic flights (i.e., the Concorde) were never allowed to fly over land. The N+2 uses new technologies and engines that suppress noise while still achieving supersonic speeds — Mach 1.7 — allowing it to travel across the country, not just over water. “To achieve revolutionary reductions in supersonic transportation airport noise, a totally new kind of propulsion system is being developed,” said Michael Buonanno, Lockheed Martin’s manager of the N+2 program. For NASA, it’s researching ways to minimize sonic boom effects, but until it does, supersonic flights over land will still be off-limits.

Read more here.

Lockheed Martin SR-72 Hypersonic Aircraft

Plane and military enthusiasts may remember the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, which was capable of flying at Mach 3. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works is now developing the successor, the SR-72. Capable of flying at Mach 6, the unmanned aircraft “would be so fast, an adversary would have no time to react or hide,” according to Lockheed Martin. With backing from NASA, the company says the SR-72, which would use turbine-based combined cycle propulsion technology (scramjets require engine power and propulsion systems that traditional engines can’t deliver), could be operational by 2030. While the SR-72 is a proposed military aircraft, its success and deployment could lead to developments of passenger variants, such as the Skreemr.

Read more here.

Photography

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.
Photography

Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Photography

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…
Photography

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.
Photography

Olympus teaser shares glimpse of OM-D camera that’s good for more than sports

Is Olympus about to release a new mirrorless camera geared toward sports photographers? The latest teaser offers a glimpse of an upcoming OM-D camera set to launch on January 24, and by the looks of the teasers, it's capable for landscapes…
Photography

Nikon A1000, B600 pack big zooms into compact, budget-friendly cameras

The new Nikon Coolpix A1000 packs in a 35x zoom lens, 4K video, and an optical viewfinder, while Nikon's B600 brings a 60x zoom lens to the table. The cameras are modest updates to Nikon's budget-friendly zoom models.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.