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Science News

10 Visions of the Future: Robot planes and a sky-high pool

From an inflatable lunar colony to a plane that looks like a bird, here are some glimpses of what could be in store for us in the near and distant future.

Have you ever wondered what sustainable life could be like on Mars?

Life on Mars in upstate New York

Ever wondered what it would be like to stay in a futuristic habitat designed for life on Mars?

AI Space Factory, the winners of NASA's 3D printed habitat challenge, have adapted their design for a sustainable Martian home to produce a dwelling here on Earth. The firm is offering guests the opportunity to stay in TERA, an eco getaway built of compostable materials nestled in the woods of upstate New York, beginning in March 2020. Visitors can experience undisturbed nature while gaining a "glimpse into life on a new planet."

AI Space Factory


SHoP Architects' design for an Uber skyport is a hub for both ground-based and drone taxi fleets. 

Uber aims to launch Uber Air in 2023, giving riders the option of an affordable shared flight. 

No front window

The pilot of NASA's X-59, or QueSST, won't look out a window. Instead they'll use a 4K monitor that shows the terrain ahead.

The innovative design helps attenuate sonic booms, which can be quite disturbing to people on the ground. Though NASA says the plane is not intended to carry passengers, the boom-suppressing technology could help lift current bans on supersonic flight over land and enable a new generation of quiet supersonic commercial aircraft. 

Lockheed Martin

How do you get in?

This 360-degree infinity pool is being proposed for the top of a 55-story building in London. 

To enter the pool, guests from the hotel below would use a rotating spiral staircase that rises from the pool's bottom. 

Compass Pools
The Boeing Airpower Teaming System is the company's first unmanned system, designed for global defense customers.

Robotic fighter jets

The Royal Australian Air Force has teamed up with Boeing to develop an AI-controlled drone with "fighter-like performance" that could accompany human-piloted aircraft or fly solo. 

The sensor-studded aerial drones could fly into combat to scout enemy targets and draw enemy fire that otherwise would be directed at human-piloted aircraft.


Inflatable lunar colony

This "Moon Village” is part of the plan for a permanent human settlement on the lunar surface. 

The master plan, by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, envisions the village on the rim of Shackleton Crater near the lunar south pole, which receives near continuous daylight. 

SOM / Slashcube GmbH

It's a bird, it's a plane...

While not intended to represent an actual aircraft, Airbus' "Bird of Prey" highlights the potential for biomimicry in aircraft design. It has wing and tail structures that mimic those of a bird of prey, while featuring individually controlled feathers that provide active flight control.


No assembly required

Designed to fit inside a launch vehicle, this lunar habitat by Instarz would require no construction by the eight astronauts who could live inside it. "Just ship it and it will be ready when they arrive," says the Puerto Rican company. 


A bridge made of boats

A waterway separates the Amsterdam City Center from Marineterrein Amsterdam, an area in full swing of development. A bridge crossing the channel isn't possible because large boats use it as a passage--so pedestrians are forced to walk 10 minutes to get from one place to the other.

To solve the problem, researchers at MIT, in collaboration with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute), have developed the concept of "roundAround," a fleet of autonomous boats, or Roboats, that will travel in a circle, carrying visitors from one bank to the other. 

MIT Senseable City Lab

All wing

Named after the iconic V-shaped electric guitar, this "Flying-V" plane would allow seating for passengers in its wing structures and would save as much as 20 percent on fuel costs. 

Dutch airline KLM is partnering with the Dutch university TU Delft for the project. A model is scheduled to take to the air during KLM's 100th anniversary celebration in October. 

14 Visions of the Future: Life on Mars and a rural skyscraper

Studio OSO