The Blue Edge is a hypersonic aircraft concept that would fly at an altitude of 125,000 feet at Mach 10. It could transport 220 passengers from the UK to Australia in 90 minutes with hydrogen as a green fuel source; it could also be used as a hyper-fast cargo plane.
Origin of the Concept
The Blue Edge concept was submitted to the ICAO innovation contest by Drew Blair. The name was derived from the aircraft’s ability to fly right on the edge of space. At this height, the full curvature of our ‘blue planet’ can be observed. This aircraft would slice through the troposphere like a razor.
How It Works
The foundation of the Blue Edge is a single-stage-to-orbit fixed wing aircraft. From an engineering perspective, the engines used in the Blue Edge are enough to push a Falcon 9 into orbit. For commercial flights, this means much lower throttling, which is more efficient and causes less stress on the scramjets during hypersonic velocity.
The Blue Edge can fly at speeds of 7,000 mph at an altitude of 125,000 feet—double the altitude of the Concorde. Flights at this height are completely unheard of, but by using lighter materials, a much lower operating weight can be achieved, making flight at the edge of space possible. The Blue Edge also reduces weight by having a lighter landing envelope. At about 120kts, it is 15kts less than a Boeing 737.
At Mach 8-10 and with a 10,000+ mile range, the aircraft could be on the other side of the planet in 90 minutes or less. This is beneficial not only for commercial travel, but also during emergencies. The Blue Edge will be able to transport people from areas of danger in a matter of minutes or transport relief supplies faster.
Because of its 93-ft wingspan, Blue Edge can also access regional gates, rather than relying on larger gates like the ones required by 777’s, 787’s, or A350’s.
In subsonic, Blue Edge can cruise just below Mach 1, so for regional flights, instead of cruising at Mach 0.79 like a Boeing 737 or A320, The Blue Edge could cruise at Mach 0.95-0.99, which would result in 20% faster regional flights. This also results in lower operating costs when compared to a 737 while offering a much higher passenger capacity. Airlines would be able to double their net income by using Blue Edge compared to both Boeing and Airbus.
The Blue Edge could also be adapted into a cargo ship with approximately the same load capacity as a UPS 757 while allowing for much more timely delivery of items. This could create a new class of ultra-fast shipping.
Thrust reversing isn’t needed in this model because the main gear will use load-tensioning brakes (similar to train locomotives), which reverse polarity. This provides rapid braking capability without the possibility of catching fire.
The first hydrogen jet experiment was the B57 back in the 1950s. The aircraft flew well, but its fuel requirements were deemed unacceptable. Blue Edge accommodates 125,000 gallons via conforming tank technology, allowing for further and more economical travel.
Blue Edge uses a hydrogen fuel, which is considered a ‘green fuel’ as its only by-product is water – therefore it has a carbon footprint of 0. Turbines can run on hydrogen—their net thrust output is more akin to afterburners. The source of hydrogen will be produced by ground-based, solar-powered water electrolysis.
On cost basis and flight times alone, Blue Edge offers a more economical method of commercial travel. Coupled with the use of hydrogen fuel, it will end up changing energy requirements globally, leading to a massive reduction in hydrocarbons and hydrogen fuel becoming mainstream. That, in turn, will slow global warming and reduce pollution to help preserve our world for future generations.
I would like to thank Drew Blair for creating and collaborating with us on his new aircraft concept, to learn more visit the Blue Edge website. I would also like to thank Martin Rico for creating the images. Martin studied design at the University of Buenos Aires and works as an Industrial Designer for the ICAO. If you would like to submit an idea about the future of aviation, we invite you to visit ICAO’s future of aviation website.