In an effort to predict how loud its planned experimental aircraft — now only in the design phase — might be, NASA has designed a computer program that can take noise profiles and simulate how they would sound in real-world scenarios.
A new video by NASA out today shows the “Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project” in action, and while the sound profile may seem soothing at low volumes as seen in videos or from an airplane at high altitude, in real-life, airplane noise pollution is a big problem.
Early morning until late at night, flights come and go. A late-aughts study by Umweltbundesamt, the German central environmental agency, found that people living around the airport in Cologne, Germany suffered a significantly higher rate of coronary heart disease (60 percent in men, 81 percent in women), than control.
But you don’t have to live in the flight path to know the sound. If it was right over your home, the noise levels could reach louder than 100 decibels, effectively eight times as loud as the volume used in the German study. The study found the negative health effect from airplane noise can be seen at exposures as low as 40 decibels.
Efforts to mitigate noise pollution from aircraft have focused on restricting flight times, diverting the path of airplanes to avoid dense population areas, and making tweaks to the jet engine design to mitigate the exhaust noise. For the most part, airplane design has remained the same. NASA’s auralization simulation as seen in the video below shows the shape of the aircraft can make a big difference.
How can we know that a future aircraft will be less noisy than the ones we fly in today? NASA builds computer-based tools to predict those things, with certainty. This video is an “auralization” — a visual representation of a complex set of noise data and predictions — that shows the noise differences between one of today’s typical aircraft and a possible future hybrid wing body aircraft. The difference is pretty striking. The best part is, if these aircraft and their technologies become real, the areas around airports will be much more quiet.
It is now possible to hear that the hybrid wing body style has a lower sound profile than the traditional designs, and a change in design may hold the key to improving the lives of those living and working around airports.