Farnborough International Air Show: Supersonic car, anti-aircraft laser debut

The supersonic car 'Bloodhound' was unveiled Monday at the Farnborough International Air Show in Britain. Up in the air, the forthcoming Boeing Dreamliner 787 and the Airbus A400M grabbed eyes.

The Bloodhound SSC is seen traveling at speed in this undated artists impression, received in London October 23, 2008. The supersonic car, along with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, are being introduced at the Britain's Farnborough International Air Show.

A supersonic car dubbed the “Bloodhound” that aims to exceed 1,000 mph was unveiled today at the Farnborough International Air Show in Britain.

The life-size replica is the first-ever public showing and gives a glimpse of the real 42-foot-long jet-engine-powered car expected to be tested next year, says Matthew Knowles of the ADS Group, parent company of the Farnborough International Air Show. “It’s the first time it’s been unveiled,” he says.

Bloodhound project director Richard Noble and test driver Andy Green are the same men behind the ThrustSSC, which set the current record speed for a land vehicle at 763 mph in 1997, making it the first car to officially break the sound barrier. (See video below of the vehicle cruising over the desert.)

READ: Supersonic car inspires students to study math and science

The sleek, rocket-shaped car was not to be outdone, however, by appearances of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A400M, whose sales are expected to help the aviation industry recover from two years of financial losses.

IN PICTURES: Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Nearly $89 billion worth of orders was placed at the previous air show in 2008, and an estimated $10 billion in orders was placed today alone, says Mr. Knowles of the ADS Group.

The biennual air show lasts from July 19 to 25 and features more than 1,000 exhibitors and attendants from 38 countries. British Defence Secretary Liam Fox will speak at the event Tuesday, and Baroness Neville-Jones, minister of state for security and counterterrorism, will speak Thursday. The 2008 air show brought together 128,000 trade visitors and 153,000 public visitors, according to Knowles.

The 787 Dreamliner

Perhaps the most anticipated at the Air Show are new aircraft from rivals Boeing and Airbus.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was first unveiled in the US in 2007 and had its maiden flight in December 2009, but this is its first showing overseas. Its Rolls-Royce and General Electric engines are said to emit 20 percent less CO2 than similar-sized jets.

On the military side, the forthcoming Airbus A400M – a four-engine air cargo plane – was also showcased today at Farnborough. The 148-foot-long aircraft has a 139-foot-wingspan and is capable of hauling a load of 81,571 lbs – almost twice the payload of the Hercules C130 military workhorse. It’s already getting attention from the US military.

"The Americans are interested," Louis Gallois, chief executive of Airbus' parent company EADS, told BBC News. "They do not have an aircraft with the same capabilities."

This Airbus is unique, says Knowles, because of its composite material. Stronger and lighter than today’s metal hulls, the material will allow planes to lower cabin pressure, reducing strain on passengers and requiring less fuel to lift off the ground.

Send in the drones

Among other notable technology presented, a new anti-aircraft laser and, for the first time at this air show, drones.

US-based firm Raytheon says its Phalanx Laser Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) produces a 50-kilowatt beam that can be used against UAV, mortar, rockets, and small surface ships. Raytheon debuted a black-and-white video that shows its laser shooting down a drone over the Pacific Ocean.

Scientific American reports that the laser will be installed on an operational Navy ship for additional testing.

And inside a huge indoor hall, drones are making their debut at the Farnborough International Air Show. An indoor obstacle course will demonstrate the maneuverability and agility of the different models available on the market today, according the air show organizers.

Drones on display include: BAE SystemsTaranis stealth unmanned aerial system, which is capable of carrying weapons; Boeing’s hydrogen-powered drone; and US-maker QinetiQ solar-powered Zephyr drone, which has already set the world record for flight time at more than one week in the air continuously.

“They’re one of the futures of aviation, really,” Knowles says of the controversial drones.

IN PICTURES: Boeing 787 Dreamliner

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