It takes about 15 hours to fly between Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia. A concept plane called Paradoxal could make the trip in just three hours — all it has to do is fly to the edge of Earth at hypersonic speed and slow back down for a safe landing.
Paradoxal’s design was published Sunday by a nonprofit organization from Montreal called Imaginactive. The group comes up with concepts for new vehicles — a bike ripped straight out of Tron and a lighter-than-air vehicle called Medusa among them — and shares them online so they can “grow, evolve, and inspire people” to make them a reality.
Imaginactive announced that, in addition to its ability to cut a trip down to one-fifth the time, Paradoxal would also use cameras to provide a live video feed as it approaches space and let people “experience weightlessness for one brief minute” when it begins its descent. The whole flight is supposed to be faster and more fun than current treks.
Paradoxal would rely on Rim-Rotor Rotary Ramjet Engines designed by researchers at Quebec’s Université de Sherbrooke and cooling tech patented by NASA. The engines would allow the plane to reach hypersonic speeds; the cooling system would ensure the aircraft could handle the resulting temperatures without issue.
Imaginactive’s concept is part of efforts to rethink air travel. One of the biggest areas of interest lies with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. These would allow companies like Uber to introduce on-demand services where people could travel around a city in aerial vehicles, for example, instead of being limited to ground-based transport.
DARPA, the military’s research arm, is also experimenting with VTOL aircraft. The hope is that these vehicles would make air travel quieter, more efficient, and less dependent on the sprawling runways today’s planes require. They would also make it easier for military operations to be conducted in places where traditional aircraft can’t be used.
Others are trying to make aircraft more energy conscious. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said before that he wants to create an electric VTOL plane, though he hasn’t said whether that’s something he’s currently working on, and Alaska Airlines flew a plane across the country in November using a biofuel harvested from wood.
Paradoxal wouldn’t tackle those problems. Imaginactive said it requires about 6,000 feet of runway to land — roughly the same as a Boeing 747 commercial airliner — and is unlikely to use renewable energy sources. But it does promise to make travel far more convenient, which could be enough for people who just want to spend as little time in the air as they can.
Inverse reached out to Imaginactive to learn more about Paradoxal’s design and whether or not it expects others to make the concept a reality in the future. We’ll update this post if the nonprofit responds. In the meantime, though, one can dream about somebody making air travel a less horrendous experience for everyone who wants or needs to take a trip.