Last month, the US Patent and Trademark Office approved an application from Airbus' Marco Prampolini and Yohann Coraboeuf for an "ultra-rapid air vehicle and related method of aerial locomotion."
In other words, Airbus just patented a hypersonic jet.
Airbus expects the jet to reach speeds as high as Mach 4.5 — or 4 1/2 times the speed of sound.
According to PatentYogi's Deepak Gupta, this means the Airbus jet could make the trip from London to New York in just one hour. That's a significant improvement over the 3 1/2 hours it took for the now retired Mach 2 Concorde to make the same trip. The Concorde was a joint venture between Airbus' two predecessors, France's Aerospatiale and British Aerospace.
The hypersonic jet would also demolish the seven to eight hours it takes a conventional airliner, such as Airbus' own A330, to cross the Atlantic.
In addition, Airbus thinks the patented craft would be able to complete trips like Paris to San Francisco or Tokyo to Los Angeles in just three hours.
In the patent, Airbus describes the craft as "an air vehicle including a fuselage, a gothic delta wing distributed on either side of the fuselage, and a system of motors able to propel the air vehicle."
The jet is powered by three different types of engines that work in sequential order to get the craft aloft, into cruising altitude, and then up to its cruising speed of more than 3,000 mph.
To get off the ground, the craft will use two turbojets mounted under the fuselage as well as a rocket motor mounted in the rear. As the Airbus lifts off the runway, it will climb vertically like the Space Shuttle. Right before the jet reaches the speed of sound, the turbojets shut down and retract into the belly of plane — leaving only the rocket motor to guide it up to an altitude of more than 100,000 feet.
At cruising altitude, the rocket motor will shut down and retract into the fuselage. Then the plane's pair of wing-mounted ramjets take over and propel the aircraft to a top speed of Mach 4.5.
Airbus suggests it will be powered by various forms of hydrogen stored aboard the craft.
According to Airbus, much of the plane's aerodynamics are designed to limit and reduce the sonic boom it will create when it reaches supersonic speed. In the 1970s, the Concorde was beset by complaints of sonic booms and noise pollution created by its four Rolls-Royce Olympus turbojet engines. Consequently, it was prevented from operating over land.
As a result, the supersonic Anglo-French airliner was never able to become the financially viable mainstream passenger transport its creators had hoped for. Instead, the 14 production Concordes spent their 27-year career shuttling well-heeled VIPs across the Atlantic.
Airbus believes the hypersonic jet could have both civilian and military applications. In civilian trim, the craft could serve as private jet or as an airliner with room for 20 passengers. In military trim, the jet could serve as a hypersonic transport for commandos or as a reconnaissance plane like the SR71 Blackbird.
In addition, Airbus has also proposed a variant armed with high-power electromagnetic pulse weapons to conduct precision strikes on high-value targets.
As with most patented ideas, it's unlikely the jet will ever enter production. But technology derived from the hypersonic plane could make its way into Airbus' other less extreme products.
For more information on the Airbus jet, check out the full patent at the USPTO database or this video from PatentYogi:
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