From the shelve to the wing
Before the beginning of the 1st World War, approximately 100 years ago, airplanes were associated with bookshelves not by accident. The plane looked like one indeed, as the engine and pilot's seat were placed on every flat shelve. The stabilizer was imposed behind the pilot’s seat and there was no fuselage at first. But the war launched an arms race, requiring the plane to fly at a higher speed and for a further distance. Therefore, the fuselage was created as an elongated construction for pilots, passengers and cargoes. The major innovation was then adopted by Igor Sikorsky in 1913, as the world witnessed first multi-engine airplanes “Russky Vityaz” and “Ilya Muromets”. "Ilya Muromets" marked the beginning of the classic layout of passenger aircraft. Nevertheless, the mathematicians and physicist at the time already had a particular interest in hydrodynamics and aerodynamics theories, investigating different wings shapes and profiles.
After the war, a number of experimental designs were based on the flying wing concept. The flying wing configuration was studied extensively in the 1930s and 1940s, notably by Jack Northrop. A flying wing is a tailless fixed-wing aircraft that has no definite fuselage, with most of the crew, payload, and equipment being housed inside the main wing structure. Some general interest continued until the early 1950s, when the concept was proposed as a design solution for the long-range bombers. Such trends culminated in the Northrop YB-35 and YB-49, which never actually enter production. Due to the practical need for a deep wing, the flying wing concept is most relevant for designs in the slow-to-medium speed range. There has been continuous interest in using it as a tactical airlifter design. The winding-down of the Cold War in the latter portion of the 1980s dramatically reduced the need for the flying wing aircraft.
Innovations are coming
As it always happens, new piece creates the whole puzzle for an “ideal machine”. And sometimes it makes sense to look back at things, which were rejected in the past. For instance, vertical keels and stabilizers were useless for invisible to radar aircraft, but oppositely, are much of use for increasing the visibility of the civil aircraft. The hybrid based on previously mentioned “flying wing” concepts helped to develop Boeing X-48 UAV. Boeing began flight testing the X-48B version for NASA in 2007. The X-48B was later modified into the X-48C version. It was flight tested from August 2012 to April 2013.
With no doubt, it can be concluded that Airbus takes the patent for their new interior seriously. When Isaac Singer invented the sewing machine, he could not know that his patented ear needle will be so widely used. The Airbus patent for round aircraft design is not as simple as it may look at the first glance. After all, a similar idea is already used in one aircraft manufactured in Russia on EU grants, seen in the picture below.