Five Cool Innovations We Saw At The Paris Air Show

Since Charles Lindbergh landed on this sacred ground, completing the first trans-Atlantic crossing, Le Bourget in Paris, France has been a global incubator for innovation. More than 150 aircraft made their way here last week for the 50th annual Paris Air Show. There were 102 countries represented by dignitaries at the show, $150 billion in contracts signed and 2,215 exhibitors. More than 300,000 visitors walked the grounds at Le Bourget, Europe's busiest business airport, during the week.

Here's a quick recap of five of the most innovative technologies we saw emerge from this year's air show:

1. Going green on the ground

One of the more intriguing demonstrations came from an airplane that never left the ground.

An Airbus 320 ambled down a taxiway at Le Bourget, demonstrating a new electric-powered motor that could help airlines save enormous amounts of time, money and fuel.

The Electric Green Taxiing System was developed by Honeywell and Safran, and allows airplanes to avoid using their jet engines during taxi, when they're most inefficient, and instead rely on battery power. The collaborators say it's similar to the technology that allows a hybrid car to draw electric power at low speeds.

The benefits are two-fold: Airlines can eliminate about 4 percent of fuel costs per flight cycle, which might save them $200,000 per year per aircraft, according to some estimates. Airplanes could also back up under their own power, and would no longer need to wait for a push from ground crews, which often result in flight delays.

EGTS may be introduced to the market in 2016.

2. Russian fighter defies physics

The United States military was noticeably absent from the show, but the Russians were more than happy to fill the void by introducing more than 100 new developments, according to Business Insider.

Chief among them was the fourth generation of the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet. It's an evolutionary update to the previous generation, built with ultra-maneuverability in mind. This stems largely from its ability to utilize thrust vectoring--changing the direction of engine thrust. Its manufacturer says it can out-maneuver the likes of Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II and Dassault's Rafale.

Among its regular tricks above Paris, the Su-35 entered a flat spin and started cartwheeling downward. This would be a regular pilot's worst nightmare, but it's a missile-avoiding maneuver well within the performance limits of this bold military fighter.

3. Best of the new drones

Whether they were little micro-drones for hobbyists, a choreographed routine of eight drones all performing simultaneous maneuvers or full-fledged drones for military use, drones owned much of the air show scuttlebutt.

None were more intriguing than the Piaggio HammerHead.

Aviation geeks will recognize the familiar, funky shape of the regular, business-oriented Piaggio with its rear-mounted propellers and canard. Now, it's put to military use. The company said the HammerHead can fly for 16 hours with a 500-pound payload for a range of 4,400 nautical miles, all significant achievements for a drone that's much larger than many currently in use.

Flight tests are scheduled for later this year.

4. Half plane, half helicopter

James Wang, the vice president of research and technology at Agusta Westland, tells CNN that the Project Zero aircraft was designed to be "as radical as possible." Given that the half-plane, half-helicopter aircraft is designed entirely out of carbon fiber and electrically powered, those radical bases are all covered.

Two rotor blades on the aircraft allow it to depart like a traditional helicopter, climbing in a near-vertical manner. Once it has established at altitude, the rotors tilt forward and allow flight like an airplane.

The company showed a proof of concept at Le Bourget, although it may not start production for a decade.

5. A glimpse into the far future

You've heard of the intermodal container, a standard-sized box that allows for seamless transition of cargo between trains, trucks and ships. From those beginnings, now comes a similar idea for passenger travel.

EPFL unveiled a reduced-scale model "Clip-Air," one of the wildest and far-reaching transportation ideas we've seen in a long time.

Aerodynamically, the concept starts with an aircraft that's essentially a commercial version of the stealth bomber--a flying wing. Intermodal rail cars pick up passengers at a train station. When they arrive at an airport, the entire intermodal car is then clipped onto the bottom of the flying wing. Each aircraft could carry up to three of these intermodal fuselages.

Such a system could help alleviate crowded skies. Airlines would need fewer planes to shuttle the same number of passengers. They could also haul more cargo. Passengers could trim all the wasted time that occurs waiting for flights and connections at airports.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached at and followed @PeterCBigelow.

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