Designing the future of electric flight

Young design students provide a fresh perspective on electric airplane concepts

The future is now for a group of young design students, which came together with Airbus for a project to imagine innovative new ideas and concepts for all-electric flying vehicles – providing a new look on form, function and style.

This box-wing electric airplane design was one of the finalists in Airbus Innovations’ “Magic Carpet” project.

This five-month long project, named “Magic Carpet,” challenged transportation design students from Hochschule Pforzheim University in Pforzheim, Germany to conceive a two-seat electrical vehicle that would be quiet, eco-friendly, and easy to operate near big cities and on short runways.

“Working to the same specifications, each student produced a unique idea that went well beyond what we normally consider for our aircraft,” said Bruno Saint Jalmes, the Airbus’s corporate-level Head of Creative Design and Concepts, who is also the lead designer for the E-Fan program and served as one of the “Magic Carpet” project creators. “All of these final ideas represent potential new ideas for the Group as we move to a future with more electric aviation.”

For the challenge, six students worked on projects that laid out exciting electric aircraft ideas ranging from hang-glider-like concepts to double-fuselage, box-wing and asymmetrical designs – along with extreme lightweight and highly streamlined vehicles.

Bringing the future of design to Airbus

The students involved with “Magic Carpet” project are pictured with Bruno Saint Jalmes, Tobias Schmidt-Schäffer, and Stefan Stueckl from Airbus, as well as Airbus’ Jochen Werner.

Saint Jalmes joined with Tobias Schmidt-Schäffer, an Airbus Expert in cabin design, and Stefan Stueckl, Dipl.- Ing Future Vehicle Concepts, to promote young designers’ interest in the aerospace industry and help attract top talent to Airbus.

Transportation design students traditionally think the automotive industry is the only opportunity to apply their skills, Saint Jalmes explained. This first version of the Magic Carpet contest was created to refute this perception – inspiring young people to bring their innovative new ideas into the aerospace industry.

The students – working in close coordination with Airbus personnel – had to account for real aircraft constraints, leading to a range of new product ideas that feature sleek, futuristic designs, while still maintaining the simplicity, efficiency and performance that would be required for a new-generation electric flying vehicle. 

One day per month, experts met with the students, reviewing their progress and advising them on technical and engineering requirements as the challenge progressed. 

The “Stingshot” electric airplane concept features a side-by-side two fuselage design.

“We can have fun at Airbus!”

In the future, Saint Jalmes would like to expand “Magic Carpet” to multiple schools of design in Europe and the United States – noting that professors at Hochschule Pforzheim University have said many more students already are interested in the challenge’s next edition.

“Electricity has the potential to change the future of flying vehicles,” explained Saint Jalmes. “By connecting with the next generation of designers, we are showing them that aircraft or flying vehicles are not just machines. We can do a lot in terms of design – and we can have fun at Airbus!”