If you're a major aerospace company and you want to assess a variety of environmentally-friendly technologies for use in your airplanes, do you spread those technologies out across several individual planes? Not always. Boeing uses an aircraft known as the ecoDemonstrator, the current version of which has recently been equipped to test 25 different onboard green tech innovations.
The present ecoDemonstrator, the 787 Dreamliner ZA004, is the fourth Dreamliner Boeing has built. The previous demonstrator utilized an American Airlines Next-Generation 737, and was used to assess 15 technologies.
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"The ecoDemonstrator is focused on technologies that can improve airlines' gate-to-gate efficiency and reduce fuel consumption, emissions and noise," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner, regarding the systems installed on ZA004. One of these is NASA's Airborne Spacing for Terminal Arrival Routes (ASTAR) system. It's intended to improve landing efficiency by minimizing the amount of time that aircraft have to wait to land at busy airports.
Other technologies being tested include greenhouse gas sensors; real-time wind reports that can be used to reduce turbulence for improved fuel efficiency and passenger comfort; wireless sensor networks that reduce weight by eliminating wiring; outer access doors made from recycled carbon fiber; ice-shedding exterior coatings; and, green diesel.
The 787-based ecoDemonstrator will be replaced next year by a 757-based version, which will be outfitted with a number of other technologies.