Those minuscule windows on aeroplanes could soon become a thing of the past, with a UK developer working on windowless fuselages that instead house giant, flexible OLED screens.
Depending on your point of view, these would either offer a glorious view of the land you’re flying over (they’re much bigger than the windows) or be quite oppressive (they’re screens after all, and there’s no natural light).
The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), which works with developers across the UK, has unveiled a video showing concept art for the technology, with the screens replicating what is outside the plane and showing places and points of interest such as other aircraft and the International Space Station in real-time.
They can also be powered down for tiny red wine-induced nap time on long haul flights or show other content like in-flight movies and commercials.
Though it seems faintly dystopian, the technology was conceived with the environment in mind.
“We had been speaking to people in aerospace and we understood that there was this need to take weight out of aircraft,” Dr Jon Helliwell of the CPI told The Guardian.
Putting windows in a plane means strengthening the fuselage (this is why they don’t bother with them on cargo planes), and without this the OLED planes would be lighter and therefor consume less fuel.
The CPI thinks OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) could be harnessed to make the screens, and with this technology already in production it could be ready for use on such a large scale in the next decade.
“What would be great would be to make devices based on OLEDs that are flexible. We can make transistors that are flexible but if we can make OLEDs that are flexible, that gives us a lot of potential in the market because we can print OLEDs on to packaging, we can create flexible displays,” Dr Helliwell added.
“We are talking about the idea now because it matches the kind of development timelines that they have in the aerospace industry.
“So you could have a display next to a seat if you wanted it; you could have a blank area next to a seat if you wanted it; you would have complete flexibility as to where you put the panel screens. You could put screens on the back of the seats in the middle and link them to the same cameras.”