Meet the startup that may fly you from Dhaka to New York in 4 hours
Imagine leaving Dhaka after breakfast to catch a lunch meeting in New York, or an afternoon date in London, on the same day. While it may sound like fantasy, Destinus, a European hypersonic startup, is in fact making rapid progress towards its goal of ushering in a new age of hypersonic travel. With their prototypes already making successful test flights and their third prototype set to take off by the end of the year, Destinus aims to make its planes fly at hypersonic speeds, cutting down flight duration to less than a quarter of current commercial air travel.
The company's approach involves the development of smaller autonomous drones before scaling up to larger passenger-carrying aircraft. The company's prototypes are blended-body planes in the wave rider shape, a hypersonic design first conceived in the 1950s but never before reaching production. Additionally, CNN reports that Destinus is using hydrogen as its fuel of choice due to its renewable and clean energy source, increasing affordability, and ability to help the company achieve its long-range and high-speed goals. The company's long-term goal is to be fully hydrogen-powered and zero-emission, but for now, they plan to use Jet A for takeoff and then switch to hydrogen once they reach supersonic speeds.
According to a CNN report, Destinus has already secured private investment and public funding, including grants worth 26.7 million euros ($29.4 million) from the Spanish government to expand its hydrogen propulsion capabilities.
The company's ultimate goal is to have multiple classes of passengers, including economy, and to significantly reduce the price of ultra-long-range flights by the 2040s. However, Destinus acknowledges that their plans are dependent on the hydrogen market, which they do not control. To address this, Destinus recently acquired Dutch company OPRA, which has gas turbines that are already built and being sold. This acquisition will provide additional revenue and help the company weather any challenges.
Hypersonic air travel has been a topic of fascination for decades. The idea of flying at incredible speeds, reducing travel times significantly, has captured the imagination of engineers and scientists for generations. The first hypersonic flight was achieved by the North American X-15 rocket-powered aircraft in the 1960s, reaching a top speed of Mach 6.7. Since then, various countries and companies have continued to explore the potential of hypersonic travel, with NASA, the US Air Force, and private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin all working on hypersonic projects.
On the note of super-speed air travel, Concorde was a supersonic jet that operated from 1976 to 2003, developed jointly by British and French engineers. It was a technological marvel, capable of reaching speeds of Mach 2.04, or more than twice the speed of sound, and flying from New York to London in just over three hours. However, Concorde ultimately failed to take off as a commercial success due to a number of factors, including high operating costs, noise pollution, and environmental concerns. Additionally, a tragic accident in 2000, when an Air France Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff, killing 113 people, dealt a severe blow to the aircraft's reputation and ultimately led to its retirement from service in 2003.
While there have been some setbacks and failures, the pursuit of super-speed air travel continues, with companies like Destinus aiming to finally make it a reality for commercial use.