The layout of a train is a lot like an airplane or a bus in terms of packing a lot of people into a tube to move them somewhere else. So why not just load people into a train and then slap some wings on it to get it to its destination? That’s the idea behind École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne‘s Clip-Air, which proposes to revolutionize air travel with a series of modular aircraft. The system does away with wasteful round-trip flights to get planes where they need to be and eliminates the need to wait at a central airport.

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According to the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, travelers could board a Clip-Air capsule at an airport, a train station or even a harbor. That capsule could then be attached to a set of wings and taken where it needs to go. Each set of wings could carry at least 3 capsules, meaning that one system could transport a plane full of people to one destination, pick up a plane full of cargo along the way and then pick up another plane full of passengers at another stop, eliminating wasted time and fuel.

The Clip-Air system could even work with existing infrastructure. Capsules could be moved along railways or on boats when not being used, and train stations or harbors could be modified to accommodate the system. And since the pilot and cockpit are a part of the wing, the Clip-In system is safer than the current system.

EPFL envisions the system using alternative fuel, and a fully loaded plane should be able to transport up to 450 passengers. Clip-Air is still a work-in-progress, so we shouldn’t expect to see modular airplanes anytime soon – but it definitely spells out big changes for the air transportation system.

+ École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Via Dvice