Airbus and Boeing thrust sustainable aviation into spotlight

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is teaming up with Siemens to introduce a range of hybrid passenger planes, while rival Boeing has partnered with NASA to reduce emissions through lighter wing designs.

Airbus’s partnership with Siemens will see the two companies work to develop a hybrid aircraft powered by electricity and conventional fuel by 2030.

Airbus’s chief executive officer Tom Enders said: “We believe that by 2030 passenger aircraft below 100 seats could be propelled by hybrid propulsion systems and we are determined to explore this possibility together with world-class partners like Siemens.”

With the two companies committing a team of 200 towards the project, a prototype with a power range between 100KW and 10MW could be used to provide low-emitting local trips to transport 100 people per journey.

Wings of change

Not to be outdone in the green innovation race, fellow plane manufacturer Boeing has been working with NASA to design longer, thinner and lighter wings that could reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions by at least 50%.

Using a wind tunnel-tested model, Boeing and NASA increased wingspan size by 50%, but due to its lightweight frame and extra support, the vehicle was able to reduce drag and save on fuel use as a result. The two companies will analyse more results before exploring wing design further.

NASA has previously claimed that America’s aviation industry could reduce pollutant emissions by 75% – saving $250bn in the process – by incorporating refined green technologies that the Agency has developed over the past six years.

Fight or flight

After years of attempting to sweep carbon emissions under the rug, the aviation industry is finally gearing up to tackled climate change. With talks set to begin on an agreed emissions cap from 2020, Europe’s aviation industry is already targeting carbon reductions of around 75% by 2050.

But, with emissions in the sector set to skyrocket by 250% unless an international target can be ratified, the industry needs to act fast to accelerate a low-carbon movement.

The world’s largest express transportation company FedEx is taking to steps to kick-start the movement. As part of a partnership with Colorado-based firm Red Rock Biofuels, the company recently announced it will pump millions of gallons of biofuel produced from waste wood biomass into its engines.

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook has turned to data management to drive its sustainability agenda, incorporating digital infrastructure to cope with the energy demands that come with running more than 45,000 hotels and transporting 22.3 million people on international flights.

Matt Mace

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