When Patents and Planes Travel Faster than Sound

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How would you like to have Breakfast here in India, Lunch in America and be back home for dinner in India, all of it, being done on the same day!! Sounds unbelievable? Well, believe it! Patents seem to be flying out of the USPTO faster than the speed of sound! On July 14, 2015 a patent [US 9,079,661]was awarded to Airbus, also known as the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company for an invention titled “Ultra-Rapid Air Vehicle and Related Method for Aerial Locomotion”.

Image Source: US Patent 9,079,661

In simple words, this invention relates to a plane that is capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound and is proposed to be used for commercial air travel. The patent document states that “at the current time, the point to point ultra rapid air vehicles which have been produced are the CONCORDE and Tupolev Tu-144, both of which are supersonic. The Ultra-rapid air vehicle proposed by the present invention enables the performance of both these aircrafts to be improved very considerably”, further the document reveals that the present invention substantially reduces the noise emitted when the sound barrier is broken, also called the supersonic bang! This noise is one of the main limiting factors in supersonic aircrafts. To achieve this reduced noise the aircraft makes a “near-vertical” ascent like a rocket, while ramping up to supersonic speed and a cruising altitude of 30,000 to 35,000 meters, which is 20 kilometers higher than the cruising altitude for conventional commercial aircraft. Similarly to achieve the noise reduction, the aircraft descends at a “steep gradient.” The sound energy dissipates in a ring around the plane, parallel to the ground, so that no shockwave hits the ground. The only noise thus would be directly under the plane, and is confined to the vicinity of the airport and lasts for roughly less than a minute.

This plane can reach a staggering speed of Mach 4.5 which is roughly equal to 5513 kmph! The fastest commercial airline until the grant of this patent was the Tupolev Tu-144 which has a speed of 1,510 mph. The Ultra-rapid air vehicle on the other hand is nearly 2 times faster than the fastest commercial airplane and easily reaches a speed of 3400 mph. When we compare the plane’s speed to the fastest military aircrafts, it is second to none and easily grabs the third spot. The plane achieves its extreme speed with a combination of three sets of engines – turbojets for taxiing, takeoff and landing; a rocket motor for rapid acceleration; and ramjets for high-altitude cruising. The turbojets and rocket motor fold into the body of plane when not in use and the plane also has adjustable fins to make it more aerodynamic. It is proposed to be fuelled by hydrogen and liquid oxygen. In addition to these broad performance characteristics, the aircraft can carry a load of 2-3 tons which includes about 20 passengers.

The makers of the aircraft as stated in the patent specification have envisaged two applications of the aircraft, viz. civil and military. In the case of civil applications, the market of interest is principally that of business travel and VIP passengers, who require transcontinental journey within one day. The distance between United States and India is roughly around 14,000 km which means the plane would take under 4 hours to reach its destination. That’s pretty much about the same time that it takes to travel within the Metropolitans of India during peak hour traffic!

Authored by Gaurav Mishra.

Sources here and here