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Seaplane concept floated.

Engineering researchers at Imperial College have developed a design concept for a medium-to long-range seaplane that could one day carry up to 2,000 passengers at a time.

The aircraft features a V-shaped hull that merges into a blended wing body. The design, said the researchers, would give the plane buoyancy and navigability when landing and taking off from the water, while reducing drag when in the air.

Dr Errikos Levis, from Imperial's department of aeronautics, said the aircraft had been designed to relieve pressure from inland airports.

Levis has been experimenting with different seaplane configurations, studying their hull shapes and wing sizes, and concluded that the largest plane design was the most efficient in terms of fuel consumption and stability in rough seas.

However, the fuel efficiency achieved still falls short compared with conventional aircraft of comparable size. Levis suggested that modifications to the hull shape and a reduction in the plane's structural weight would make it competitive with conventional aircraft.

The colossal size of the seaplane could enable it to use environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel, which takes up four times the space of kerosene and is impractical for conventional aircraft to store.

Given the costs of developing a fleet of aquatic aircraft and associated infrastructure, it is difficult to envisage them taking to the skies in the near future. Nevertheless, the next step for Levis and his team is to refine existing formulas and prepare the designs for more detailed modelling.

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Title Annotation:News & analysis
Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Date:May 1, 2015
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