Cabin of the future
Cabin design from the perspective of "digital natives"
Digitization is one of the mega-trends set to have a profound impact in the world of civil aviation. "Data is the raw material of the future," said Chancellor Angela Merkel when she addressed a Digitization Conference in fall 2015. And data will also determine the future of the maintenance business. Modern aircraft types, such as the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787, currently supply up to 400,000 measurement parameters. This is spearheaded especially by the engines and avionics of these aircraft. The aircraft cabin on the other hand is still struggling to keep in step with the rapid pace of development in the consumer market. That's because what has long since been standard in the mobile communications market or automobile industry is still a remote prospect for the aircraft cabin. Lufthansa Technik therefore wants to significantly increase the level of digitization in the passenger realm in the future.
The results of a forthcoming research and development project should serve as the basis for fulfilling this objective. In preparation for this project, the question asked was how the "Generation Z" or "digital natives" envisage the cabin of the future. To answer this question, cooperation was established with the "Transportation Interior Design" study program at the University of Reutlingen. The students, who otherwise are involved primarily with the design of car cockpits and therefore have a fresh view of aviation, spent a semester looking at the topic of the "aircraft cabin of the future". The objective was to create a completely new in-flight experience for passengers.
Under the direction of the Original Equipment Innovation and Corporate Innovation Management divisions, visions of cabins were conceived stretching up to 2030. Backed by new technologies and innovations, such as virtual and augmented reality, intelligent materials and a modern design language, passengers should no longer simply perceive their flight as a means to an end, rather they should be involved in events in a completely new way. The students were guided here not only by technological trends, but also by social developments. Product ideas were thus conceived that can be divided into five groups: personalization and privacy, comfortable sleeping in Economy Class, improved sense of space, gaming on board and solutions for an aging society.
Each of these topics was selected on the basis of customer requirements. The students were guided in their considerations primarily by young people and the young at heart, who always want to be up to date with the latest technology. The products are aimed at passengers who want to enjoy their flight to the fullest and experience something new and out of the ordinary. The technical design is implemented primarily from an emotional perspective. The prospective interior designers therefore consistently followed the holistic approach of combining the latest technology with the most modern design. On-board toilets and control panels, multifunctional seating and cabin layouts were developed, for example with functional baggage compartments, or multimedia wall coverings in modern color and material mixes.
The results should serve primarily as inspiration for Lufthansa Technik's new research and development project. The objective of the new products is to improve the sense of comfort as well as to positively change the passengers' perception of space and self-awareness during the flight in order to bring about a paradigm shift in terms of comfort on board and to make air travel as pleasant as possible in the future. Moreover, attention is also being focused specifically on how to involve industrial designers in early phases of development in the future so as to design products that customers can relate to optimally. An initial, quickly produced clay prototype (industrial plasticine), as typical in the area of car manufacturing, or an illustrative outline could make it much easier to obtain customer feedback in the aviation sector also.