Aviation needs innovative ideas to take off for sustainable future

The future of aviation will see a significant drop in carbon emissions, despite an increase in flights, if the industry takes on innovative ideas to reduce its impact on the environment, according to aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

Airbus recently released the latest instalment of the Future by Airbus, its vision for sustainable aviation in 2050 and beyond. This looks beyond aircraft design to how the aircraft is operated both on the ground and in the air in order to meet the expected growth in air travel in a sustainable way.

Research by the company suggests that flights in Europe and the US could on average be around 13 minutes shorter if the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system and technology on board aircrafts was optimised.

If increased ATM optimisation was integrated into aircrafts, savings of around 9 million tonnes of excess fuel would be made each year, on the basis of 30 million flights per year. This equates to over 28 million tonnes of avoidable CO2 emissions and a saving of 5 million hours of excess flight time.

Executive vice president engineering at Airbus, Charles Champion said: “Our engineers are continuously encouraged to think widely and come up with `disruptive’ ideas which will assist our industry in meeting the 2050 targets we have signed up to.

“These and the other tough environmental targets will only be met by a combination of investment in smarter aircraft design and optimising the environment in which the aircraft operates. That is why our latest Future by Airbus Smarter Skies concepts focus on not just what we fly but, how we may fly in 2050 and beyond.”

The research suggests that the use of sustainable biofuels and other potential alternative energy sources, such as electricity, hydrogen, solar, will be necessary to secure supply and further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint in the long term.

A consultation carried out by Airbus concluded that 63% of people worldwide say they will fly more by 2050, while 96% believe aircraft will need to be more sustainable or ‘eco-efficient’.

It also reported that 86% of people think less fuel burn is a top priority and 85% view a reduction in carbon emissions as key to the future of aviation.

“We know people want to fly more in the future and our forecasts support this. We also know that they don’t want to fly at any cost,” said Mr Champion.

“The future of sustainable aviation is the sum of many parts and success will require collaboration amongst all the parties who are passionate about ensuring a successful prospect for aviation.”

Leigh Stringer

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