In the United States alone, air carriers use 20 billion gallons of jet fuel and create 3% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Engineers at USC are creating new plane designs and alternative energy sources for engines that could cut back on fuel usage.

For a long time, we’ve been wondering about the basics of aircraft design,” Spedding said. “Is it at an optimum? How do we know an optimum even exists? And if it’s not at an optimum, why not? And if it is, has that ever been demonstrated?[1]

The engineers weighed the pros and cons of 3 designs.

First, the current aircraft design, deemed not the most optimal due to the drag the tail causes. Secondly, a blended wing design which has structural flaws. Finally, a bird-like design, which scientists think might be the future of aircraft design, possibly increasing aerodynamic efficiency by as much as 10 percent.

We have a dedicated fuselage with a shape designed for low-drag-per-unit volume, and it’s not compromised by the wing at all, which in turn is not compromised by trying to fit in with the body,” Spedding said.

If an optimum exists, then we assert that this is the most likely candidate.”

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[1]http://news.usc.edu/136946/usc-viterbi-engineers-consider-redesigned-fuel-efficient-airplanes/