As the world's population increases at a more-than-healthy rate and the cost of travel decreases, the number of people looking to travel by air is understandably on the rise. With this growing demand comes the need for more airports as existing ones struggle to cope with the millions of passengers passing through on a daily basis.
So what happens when there's no suitable land to build a new major airport or locals protest the new construction without hesitation due to noise pollution or other environmental implications?
If you travel to Japan in the near future you may witness a solution to these problems, in the form of floating airports. At present there are four such constructions in Japan (there are also examples in Hong Kong and Macau), each built on its own artificial island offshore and each backed by the community it serves. The first of these incredible engineering wonders to be built, and the first of its kind in the world, was Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay. Just to build the 4-kilometre long island called for 21 million cubic metres of landfill plus the assistance of 80 ships, then there was the small matter of connecting the airport to the mainland by way of a 3-kilometre bridge. In total the project has so far cost around $20 billion but has already saved some expense by surviving both an earthquake and a typhoon in the last 15 years, in addition to being open 24 hours a day due to its location.
Here are Japan's four floating airports.
Kansai International Airport
New Kitakyushu Airport
Chubu Centrair International Airport
So, what does the future hold for the location of airports?
For those airports situated near the coast it makes a lot of sense to follow the examples in Japan for a number of reasons, most importantly environmental impact and space consumption.
However, there are also other innovations to welcome, one of the most intriguing being a Rotating Floating Airport invented by Van Den Noort Innovations BV in the Netherlands. As far as we know the idea hasn't been realised yet but the concept seems like a good one. The RFA's main circular body (arrival and departure lounges, transport stations) would sit below sea level, its base embedded in the sea bed, whilst the runway platform would float on the water, rotating according to wind direction. In essence the entire structure would resemble a gigantic propeller lodged in the ground, air traffic landing and taking-off on its blades.